SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologized for going on vacation while the country struggled with a worsening bushfire crisis. Since September, the emergency has killed at least 10, destroyed more than 700 homes and scorched millions of hectares. Morrison is back in Australia, where his leadership is under scrutiny.
A police officer said, "I am now directing you to move off this temporarily closed roadway so that we can reopen the road and warn you that should you fail to comply with my direction you may be arrested. Force may be used. Do you understand, Izzy?"
Thirteen-year-old Izzy Raj-Seppings was told she could be arrested outside Morrison's official residence in Sydney. With her father, the Australian schoolgirl had joined hundreds of protesters demanding that Morrison take the threat of global warming more seriously.
They argue that a drier warmer climate is increasing Australia's vulnerability to bushfires.
As the fires raged across the country, Morrison was on vacation in the United States. He was criticized for leaving the country during a crisis. He has apologized but is defending his government's climate policies.
"Look, I think Australians are fair-minded about this. They know at the end of a difficult year people go on leave and they know when dad makes a promise to their kids they like to keep it. But nevertheless, I understand the anxiety and why people have been upset by this. That is why I am pleased to be back and front up. I said we will meet our 26% emission-reduction target. Emissions per year today under our government are on average 50 million tonnes a year less than they were under the previous government," he said.
Morrison has visited the Rural Fire Service headquarters in Sydney and was briefed about the emergency in New South Wales, where more than 100 fires burn. Conditions Sunday have eased, allowing fire crews to prepare for more dangerous days in the weeks ahead.
Bushfires have always been part of the Australian story. But this fire season has not only started earlier than usual, it is far more intense.
The authorities say some of the fires will only be extinguished by heavy rain. However, weather officials say no major rainfall is expected in the next two months.
Source: Voice of America