The government puts the responsibility for the rescue operation that followed Monday’s air crash in the Apuseni Mountains on the shoulders of ROMATSA, the state-owned company that administers air traffic services in Romania.
The first heads have started to roll after more than 24 hours since the air crash that took place in the Apuseni Mountains and in which pilot Adrian Iovan and student Aurelia Ion (23) lost their lives.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Wednesday decided to remove from office the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MAI) Secretary of State Catalin Chiper, asking at the same time the Transport Minister to replace the general manager and the operations manager of ROMATSA, being next set to ask the Supreme Defence Council (CSAT) to put on its daily agenda a report on the activity of the Special Telecommunications Service (STS).
“I have found, as a first conclusion, on the basis of the report drawn up by Deputy Premier Gabriel Oprea, that there were unacceptable deficiencies in the search and rescue operations. In three important institutions, the Interior Ministry (MAI), ROMATSA and STS, things went unacceptably slow”, said Ponta. “Irrespective of the objective reasons, human errors, unfavourable weather, I still think, on the basis of the report I have in front of my eyes, that the intervention on Monday was a failure,” he added.
Ponta announced the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee on disaster management, to be coordinated by the Deputy Prime Minister for Public Order and National Security, Gabriel Oprea.
The decision to replace the three heads of institutions was taken after a meeting with PNL President Crin Antonescu and several Liberal ministers, including Interior Minister Radu Stroe, a meeting that focused on the manner in which the authorities reacted to the air crash in Cluj.
The report presented yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea – appointed by Ponta alongside secretary of state Raed Arafat to lead the inter-ministerial committee for emergency situations – shows that ROMATSA did not take the necessary measures to establish the search area for the crash site, did not start search operations and did not ask for support from the Ministry of Defense’s Air Operations Center.
IGSU Head resigns, Stroe does not
Ion Burlui, the head of the General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations (IGSU), resigned shortly after Ponta’s announcement, his resignation being accepted by Interior Minister Radu Stroe, MAI sources inform.
Burlui however stated on Antena 3 that he presented his resignation to his superior but the latter did not accept it, and pointed out that he took the decision so that there would be no suspicions about his colleagues who intervened on the ground on January 19. In this context, the head of IGSU pointed out that the resignation remains open. Ion Burlui added that the start of the search and rescue procedures came from him, before the call made it to 112: “I personally talked to doctor Zamfir at 4.06 PM. He gave me the geographical landmarks that were visible on a screen. So geographical landmarks, not coordinates, and they gave me an idea into what area to send the intervention forces.” According to him, the helicopter left from Mures and, had there been good weather conditions for a flyover, extending the search perimeter would have been out of the question. “Had the weather permitted a flyover (…) we could have reached it in 10 minutes. The helicopter was precisely in the Apuseni Mountains.” He claims that the rescue teams were sent towards the area indicated by ROMATSA and STS. “Based on the data they gave us we configured a search area. It measured in the order of tens of square kilometers. When I say tens of square kilometers I’m thinking about a flat plane projection, not about the on-the-ground configuration, which was certainly bigger than that,” Burlui added.
Interior Minister Radu Stroe stated that he does not intend to resign despite the fact that he had earlier stated that he regrets the fact that the tragedy took place during his term in office.
ROMATSA Director resigns
ROMATSA Director General Aleodor Francu announced on Wednesday that he has submitted his resignation to the Administrative Board. “A resignation is a unilateral action. In the atmosphere created I was no longer able to exercise my function as manager. ROMATSA needs stability,” Aleodor Francu stated, Mediafax informs. Asked whether he has anything to reproach himself for, Francu answered: “I have nothing to reproach myself for. I resigned solely for the institution’s calm and stability.” Aleodor Marian Francu is 57 years old and he became ROMATSA’s director general in May 2012.
Valentin Cimpuieru, former head of ROMATSA’s Development department was designated to replace Francu.