"I offer my apology for having been unable to prevent this accident from happening and unable to properly respond to it afterwards," he said.

"I believed I, as the prime minister, certainly had to take responsibility and resign."

The government, along with almost all other branches of officialdom, has come in for fierce criticism over the disaster, and the handing of the rescue operation.

"I wanted to resign earlier but handling the situation was the first priority and I thought that it was a responsible act to help before leaving. But I've decided to resign now not to be any burden on the administration," he said.

(Agencies)

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