Dismissal of Hungarian meteorologists sparks storm at home and abroad

A general view shows the Danube in Budapest, Hungary, May 30, 2019. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo

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BUDAPEST, Aug 25 (Reuters) – The sacking of Hungary’s two top meteorologists after a major storm forecast by the National Weather Service failed to materialize has sparked protests at home and abroad, with meteorologists calling for their reinstatement.

Authorities had canceled a major National Day fireworks display last Saturday due to the forecast of a severe storm. Two days later, the government sacked the head of the National Meteorological Service, Kornelia Radics, and his deputy, Gyula Horvath.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said on Tuesday that the changes in the leadership of the service would have happened anyway due to “longstanding dissatisfaction” with their work, although that he noted that last Saturday’s forecast had turned out to be “glaringly wrong”.

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“Our predictions will be flawed at times and often unpopular but – like our Hungarian colleagues – we will continue to put people first over politics and use science to put your safety first,” the group Climate Sans said. borders on its Facebook page. By Wednesday evening, people from 42 countries, mostly meteorologists, had signed a petition by the group “in solidarity with their Hungarian colleagues”.

“As forecasters, our first mission is to protect life and property. When the Hungarian meteorologists saw danger in the forecast, they did what any of us would do – warn of the risk to life,” the band added.

Seventeen senior Hungarian weather service officials issued a statement on Facebook on Tuesday calling for their leaders to be reinstated.

The government maintained its decision and appointed an interim chief to head the service.

The National Weather Service apologized on Sunday for the inconvenience caused by its forecast the day before. The least likely weather scenario had ended up materializing at a time when there was uncertainty around the forecast, he said.

The fireworks display in Budapest to mark the anniversary of the founding of the Hungarian state – postponed to August 20 – will take place this Saturday instead.

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Reporting by Krisztina Than Editing by Frances Kerry

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Laura T. Thrasher