Hungary sacks weather chiefs after wrong forecast stops Budapest fireworks display

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By Euronews  with AFP
People look at fireworks over the Danube river and the parliament during celebrations to mark Hungary's national day in Budapest on August 20, 2021.
People look at fireworks over the Danube river and the parliament during celebrations to mark Hungary's national day in Budapest on August 20, 2021.   -   Copyright  FERENC ISZA / AFP

The Hungarian government sacked the head of the country's weather forecasting service and her deputy on Monday, two days after a major holiday fireworks display planned for Budapest was postponed due to fears of bad weather that never materialised.

Kornelia Radics and Gyula Horvath of the National Meteorological Agency (NMS) were dismissed from their posts by the technology and industry minister Laszlo Palkovics.

The ministry gave no explanation. Contacted by AFP, the government did not react immediately.

The announcement came a day after pro-government media criticised the weather agency, whose forecast of thunderstorms and gusts of wind led to the cancellation of the fireworks on Saturday.

"They gave misleading information about the extent of the bad weather, which misled the operational team responsible for safety," wrote the online newspaper Origo.

In 2006, the festivities were plunged into mourning by a violent storm that killed five people and injured several hundred, spreading panic among more than a million people massed to watch the show on the Danube.

The NMS agency apologised on Sunday, citing "an uncertainty factor inherent in the meteorology profession".

 "They couldn't produce the desired weather, they were fired. No, this is not a dictatorship in Central Asia; this is the Hungary of Fidesz,"  Andras Fekete-Györ of the opposition Momentum Movement said ironically on Facebook, referring to the ruling party.

The fireworks display, billed as "the biggest in Europe" to celebrate "the thousand-year-old Hungarian state", has been rescheduled for next Saturday (August 27).

In July the opposition called for the event to be cancelled, denouncing it as "a useless waste of money" at a time when Viktor Orban's nationalist government is demanding sacrifices from people at a time of economic hardship.