Hungary sacks weather chief after forecast forces fireworks cancellation

Hungary sacks weather chief after forecast forces fireworks cancellation
# 23 August 2022 15:33 (UTC +04:00)

The Hungarian government fired the head of the national weather service and her deputy, two days after a fireworks display to celebrate a national holiday was delayed for fear of storms, APA reports citing the Guardian.

Technology minister Lazlo Palkovics, under whose remit the National Meteorological Service (NMS) falls, relieved president Kornelia Radics and her deputy Gyula Horvath from their duties on Monday, but did not provide a reason. The ministry did not immediately return AFP’s call for further details.

The NMS had forecast thunderstorms and wind gusts in the capital, Budapest, which prompted the cancellation of Saturday’s fireworks. However, the storms missed the capital.

The NMS agency apologised on Sunday, citing “a factor of uncertainty inherent in the profession”.

The fireworks display along the banks of the Danube was billed as “the biggest in Europe” to celebrate “Hungary’s millennial state” on St Stephen’s Day but has proved contentious in some quarters, meaning the forecast has become something of a political lightning rod.

The opposition called for the display to be cancelled, denouncing it as “a useless waste of money” at a time when the country’s economy is struggling, and when Ukraine is at war. A petition calling for a cancellation gained nearly 200,000 signatures.

On Sunday, pro-government media criticised NMS for their forecast. Online newspaper Origo accused the agency of giving “misleading information about the extent of the bad weather, which misled the operation team responsible for security”.

In a reaction broadcast on the social network Facebook, liberal Andras Fekete-Gyor joked: “They couldn’t produce the desired weather, they were fired. No, it’s not a dictatorship in Central Asia, it’s the Hungary of [ruling party] Fidesz,” he said.

The display has been rescheduled for later this week.

In 2006, the annual festivities were hit by a violent storm that killed five people and injured several hundred, causing widespread panic among more than a million people who had gathered to watch on the banks of the Danube.