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Supermarket Tragedy Leads To Resignation Of Latvian Leader

Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis.
Yves Logghe
Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis.

The collapse of a supermarket roof and the more than 50 deaths it caused last week has led Latvia's prime minister to announce he's stepping down.

"Latvia needs to have a government that will supported by the Saeima [parliament] majority and deal with the current situation in the nation," Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said Wednesday, according toThe Baltic Times.

The tragedy happened last Thursday in a suburb of Riga, the nation's capital. At least 54 people were killed. A spokesman for the prime minister tells Agence France Presse that "the government takes political responsibility."

The BBC writes that:

"Structural experts have suggested that the supermarket building itself may have been badly designed and so not able to support a garden which was being built on the roof. After analysing photos, videos and eyewitness reports, one structural engineer suggested there had been numerous design flaws in the roof's supporting beams — including not enough bolts.

"Substandard construction materials and corruption are other possible lines of inquiry."

Dombrovskis, 42, became prime minister on March 12, 2009. An economist, he previously served in parliament and as Latvia's finance minister. The BBC says Latvian President Andris Berzins "can either reject his prime minister's resignation or accept it and nominate an acting prime minister whose job it will be to form a new cabinet." It adds that:

"Taking office in 2009, Mr Dombrovskis was charged with making harsh budget cuts and tax increases as well as tough structural reforms to tackle the country's economic crisis. He was twice re-appointed, and is widely credited with preventing the small Baltic country from going bankrupt."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.