Asher Klein

Spate of Over 100 Wildfire Deaths Prompts Portuguese Interior Minister's Resignation

The wildfire deaths, including 42 this weekend, are by far Portugal's highest annual toll ever and have stunned the country

The Portuguese minister in charge of emergency services resigned Wednesday after 106 people were killed in wildfires this year in the Iberian nation.

Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa tendered her resignation and Prime Minister Antonio Costa accepted it, the government announced.

In a resignation letter published on the government website, Urbano de Sousa said she wanted to quit after 64 people were killed in a June wildfire, but Costa asked her to stay. She repeated her request after 42 people died last weekend in another spate of wildfires.

"Although the tragedy (last weekend) was caused by multiple factors, I came to the conclusion that I could not continue for political and personal reasons," she wrote.

The wildfire deaths are by far Portugal's highest annual toll ever and have stunned the country. Silent protests are slated for next weekend in an effort to press the Portuguese government into taking more decisive action against wildfires.

Authorities say arsonists are to blame for starting most wildfires in the country.

Urbano de Sousa had been under severe political pressure to quit. Investigations into the June wildfire deaths, which occurred in one night, found numerous shortcomings in the official response.

Urbano de Sousa wrote that she has prepared policy changes on fighting fires expected to be adopted by the government on Saturday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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