Australia PM sorry for Hawaii holiday during bushfire crisis

| Updated: December 23, 2019 10:50:16

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison - Reuters file photo Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison - Reuters file photo

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised for going on holiday while the country struggled with a mounting wildfire crisis.

Mr Morrison cut short his trip to Hawaii as criticism of him increased.

One person was found dead on Saturday, and wildfires are raging in three states.

Since September, Australia's bushfire emergency has killed at least nine people, destroyed more than 700 homes and scorched millions of hectares.

Earlier, deputy prime minister Michael McCormack conceded that more had to be done to tackle global warming, after many Australians linked the severity of this year's fires to climate change, reports the BBC.

What did PM Morrison say?

"I get it that people would have been upset to know that I was holidaying with my family while their families were under great stress," he said.

Speaking after a briefing with fire officials, he said he knew Australians were anxious about the fires but insisted that the emergency response was "the best in the world".

He conceded that climate change was contributing to changing weather patterns, but denied that it had directly caused Australia's wildfires.

"It's not a credible suggestion to make that link," he argued.

Many Australians have accused Scott Morrison's government of inaction on global warming, with criticism growing as a heatwave broke records across the country and worsened the fires.

Although climate change is not the direct cause of bushfires, scientists have long warned that a hotter, drier climate would contribute to Australia's fires becoming more frequent and intense.

Firefighters' union leader Leighton Drury previously said Australia was "seeing an absolute lack of leadership from this government, and it is a disgrace".

Tributes paid to volunteers

Mr Morrison also paid tribute to Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O'Dwyer, 36, the two firefighters killed in New South Wales on Thursday.

"When our volunteers go out there, they do it for so many reasons - but I can't help thinking they do it for love of family. Family is community, and they were out there defending their communities on that fateful night," he said.

The two men died when their truck was hit by a falling tree near a fire front, causing it to roll off the road.

Three other firefighters who were also in the vehicle survived with minor injuries.

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