Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised on Sunday for his decision to take an unannounced family holiday to Hawaii in the midst of a bushfire emergency and record-breaking heat.
Morrison came back on Saturday night, having decided to cut his trip short after widespread public criticism and the deaths of two firefighters who were killed battling a “horrendous” blaze south-west of Sydney.
“I have returned from leave and I know that (my holiday) has caused some great anxiety in Australia,” Morrison said at a news conference on Sunday morning, adding that with “the benefit of hindsight” he would have acted differently.
The prime minister’s office was also heavily criticized for declining to confirm Morrison’s whereabouts during the bushfire crisis, which triggered a second state of emergency in New South Wales on Thursday.
The hashtags #WheresScotty and #Morrisonfires trended on Twitter in Australia this week, and a student protest was staged at Morrison’s Sydney residence.
Thank you for doing nothing in Australia and holidaying in Hawaii,” one of the young protesters said in Facebook Live video posted by rally organizers Schools Strike 4 Climate.
Upon his return, Morrison said that he can “accept the criticism.”
“For those Australians I caused upset to, I apologize for that,” he said.
This week, Australia experienced its hottest days on record with the Bureau of Meteorology recording a national average temperature of 41.9 degrees Celsius on Wednesday and 41.0 degrees on Thursday.
Several thousand firefighters continue to battle dozens of out-of-control bushfires in four of Australia’s states.