Australian PM Scott Morrison issued an unusual public apology Friday and cut short a Hawaiian trip in reply to mounting public anger after two volunteer firefighters had been killed battling bushfires sweeping the nation’s east coast.
Some areas of Sydney are set for “catastrophic” conditions on Saturday, and the lethal fires are now engulfing other components of the nation. One individual was killed in a car accident Friday close to South Australia’s capital city of Adelaide, where an emergency warning is in place, although the precise circumstances surrounding the demise are not yet clear.
Australia has been fighting wildfires across three states for weeks, with blazes destroying over 700 homes and practically 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) of bushland.
The death of the two firefighters in a single day when a falling tree struck their fire truck because it traveled through the entrance line of fire brought the fire death toll in New South Wales to eight since the start of October.
Ten extra firefighters were severely injured Thursday, with four in South Australia being treated for burns and smoke inhalation.
Shortly after the pair’s deaths were introduced, Morrison issued a press release saying he would return as soon as possible from a family vacation in Hawaii, a trip that has drawn sharp criticism in recent days as the wildfires crisis intensified.
Morrison later told 2GB radio that the trip had been planned as a surprise to his young children to switch leave initially scheduled for January that he had canceled due to official trips to India and Japan.