Aussie PM Scott Morrison in holiday U-turn
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a rare public apology on Friday and cut short a Hawaiian vacation in response to mounting public anger after two volunteer firefighters were killed battling bushfires sweeping the country’s east coast.
Some areas of Sydney are set for “catastrophic” conditions on Saturday, and the deadly fires are now engulfing other parts of the country. One person was killed in a car crash on Friday near South Australia’s capital city of Adelaide where an emergency warning is in place, though the precise circumstances surrounding the death is not yet clear.
Australia has been fighting wildfires across three states for weeks, with blazes destroying more than 700 homes and nearly 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) of bushland.
The death of the two firefighters overnight when their fire truck was struck by a falling tree as it travelled through the front line of a fire brought the fires death toll in New South Wales to eight since the start of October.
Ten more firefighters were seriously injured on Thursday, with four in South Australia being treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
Shortly after the pair’s deaths were announced, Morrison issued a statement saying he would return as soon as possible from a family holiday in Hawaii, a trip that has drawn sharp criticism in recent days as the wildfires crisis deepened.
“I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time,” Morrison said. He later told 2GB radio that the trip had been planned as a surprise to his young daughters to replace leave originally scheduled for January. Reuters