Portugal's interior minister quits amid criticism of gov't wildfire response

By Ed Adamczyk  |  Oct. 18, 2017 at 7:54 AM
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Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Portugal's interior minister resigned Wednesday as the government faced mounting criticism of its handling of wildfires that have killed over 100 people since June.

Constanca Urbano de Sousa said in her letter of resignation that "I didn't have the political and personal conditions to continue in my post."

The interior ministry presides over the country's firefighters, police and civil protection agencies. All have faced blame in their reaction to the deadly fires.

Since Sunday, firefighters have been contending with hundreds of blazes across northern Portugal, brought on by drought conditions and the driest summer in 90 years. At least 41 people have died, and fire and rescue services are overwhelmed.

A June forest fire alone was responsible for 64 deaths.

Center-right parties called for a censure motion against the Socialist government of Prime Minister Antonio Costa, and hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Lisbon's presidential palace Tuesday to protest the government's handling of the emergency.

Portuguese president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, in a televised address, said the government must decide "what and who" would best serve the country's interests. His remarks were interpreted as a call for Urbano's resignation.

A report after the June fires indicated that there were failings in Portugal's emergency response agencies, as well as leadership problems in the country's forest management and civil protection agencies.

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