Romania's under fire emergency number courts fresh controversy

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By Cristian Gherasim
Romania vigil for murdered teenagers Alexandra Macesanu and Luiza Melencu
Romania vigil for murdered teenagers Alexandra Macesanu and Luiza Melencu

An emergency phone service in Romania — criticised over its slowness responding to a kidnapped teenager that was later found murdered — is under fresh scrutiny.

In July, authorities took 19 hours to locate Alexandra Macesanu, 18, after she made three calls to the emergency number 112.

A man in southern Romania later admitted killing Macesanu and another teenager, 18-year-old Luiza Melencu, missing since April.

The scandal has sparked outrage, the sacking of officials and the resignation of the country’s interior minister.

Now, the emergency number is under fresh pressure after another case emerged in recent days.

According to a phone call transcript released to a local newspaper, a Roma woman from the northwest Romania city of Zalau called the 112 number saying she was kicked off of a bus and beaten by the driver with a broomstick.

The operator told her to "stop it with the gypsy behaviour" before adding "go to hell", said the newspaper.

Romania's Special Telecommunications Service (STS) said the call was taken on April 25 this year and "strongly condemns the attitude and language of the operator".

It said the operator had "violated internal regulations regarding professional ethics, undermining the honour, reputation and dignity of the people".

In another incident, police have launched an investigation amid claims a drunk driver who was reported to the 112 number went on to be involved in a fatal accident the following day, according to media reports.

But STS said the call to 112 was preventative rather than an emergency call and that the dispatcher correctly passed it onto police.