Deeply regret any offence caused to Australians: PM Morrison apologises for Hawaii vacation amid bushfire crisis

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Dec 20, 2019, 05.14 PM(IST)

File photo: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Photograph:( Reuters )

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On Thursday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside Morrison's Sydney residence and criticised the leader for going to Hawaii while the country is battling the unprecedented wildfires.

 Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday issued a public apology for taking Christmas vacation while the country battles with raging bushfire.

"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 in the statement. Morrison also said that he would return as soon as possible from Hawaii vacation.

Anger over bushfire intensified in Australia after two firefighters died while battling blazes that are ravaging much of the country's east coast.

On Thursday, hundreds of protesters gathered outside Morrison's Sydney residence and criticised the leader for going to Hawaii while the country is battling the unprecedented wildfires.

Australia has been fighting wildfires in the east for weeks, with blazes destroying more than 700 homes and nearly 3 million acres of bushland.

The fires have resulted in days of heavy pollution in Sydney, pushing air quality to unprecedented hazardous levels and resulting in viral images of heavy smoke haze over the usually sparkling harbour and landmarks like the Opera House.

The fires are being spurred this week, by record temperatures across the country which led New South Wales, the most populous state with 7 million people, to declare a seven-day state of emergency.

Morrison's conservative Liberal-National coalition government has been under sustained pressure to defend its climate change policies as it has downplayed links to the unprecedented early arrival and severity of this year's bushfire season.

Morrison later told 2GB radio that the trip had been planned as a surprise to his young daughters to replace leave originally scheduled for January that he had cancelled because of official trips to Japan and India.

(With inputs from agencies)