January 02, 2020
The fire mercilessly tore through Cobargo, a small town near the coast in southern New South Wales, on Monday night, burning down the main street and killing two people, a father and son, caught in its destructive path.
Australian PM Scott Morrison cuts visit of fire-hit residents short amid mounting frustration
Residents of the ravaged town were angry, their homes and livelihood suddenly incinerated in a fiery flash. On Thursday, they vented that frustration at visiting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who cut short his tour of the fire-hit residents amid their barrage of criticism.
“How come we only had four trucks to defend our town? Because our town doesn’t have a lot of money, but we have hearts of gold, prime minister,” one woman in a Led Zeppelin T-shirt walking a goat shouted at the prime minister.
“What about the people who are dead, prime minister,” she said later, her voice raw with emotion. “What about the people who have nowhere to live?” “You won’t be getting any votes down here buddy,” shouted another angry man. “No Liberal (Party) votes — you’re out, son.”
One resident glared at Morrison as she told him that she wouldn’t shake his hand unless he provided more funds for those who have lost their homes and for Australia’s fire service, which relies primarily on volunteers. “We need more help,” she added as he moved on.
“Nah, you’re an idiot, mate. You really are,” sneered a resident to someone in the prime minister’s entourage trying to talk to him.
As Morrison headed to his car, one Cobargo resident had the final say.
“You’re not welcome here,” he shouted, calling him an expletive.
“This is not fair,” people shouted at the departing prime minister. “We are totally forgotten down here. Every single time this area gets a flood or a fire we get nothing ... If we lived in Sydney or on the North Coast we would be flooded with donations and emergency relief.”
Australian PM Scott Morrison cuts visit of fire-hit residents short amid mounting frustration
Australian PM Scott Morrison cuts visit of fire-hit residents short amid mounting frustration
Since September, the bush fires have killed 18 people and destroyed over 1,200 homes in New South Wales and the adjacent Victoria state. Just this week, at least another 17 people in these areas were reported missing. In the latest crisis, some 4,000 people are now trapped in a beach town in Victoria, unable to escape because of advancing fires. The government has in turn declared a state of emergency there for the first time.
Overall, the deadly fires have burned more than 14.6 million acres — an area larger than the combined territories of Belgium and Haiti.
Bush fires are a yearly occurrence in parts of dry Australia. But climate scientists have tied the longevity and severity of this year’s fires to climate change in a country that relies heavily on carbon-producing industries like coal. The fires began earlier than average, and heat waves in the fall and winter made for even more combustible conditions. December was one of two hottest months on record in Australia and 2019 the hottest and driest year yet. Dec. 18 ominously marked Australia’s hottest day ever, beating out the record set the day before.
Australian PM Scott Morrison cuts visit of fire-hit residents short amid mounting frustration
Australian PM Scott Morrison cuts visit of fire-hit residents short amid mounting frustration
Images of row after row of destroyed buildings coupled with darkened or apocalyptic-like red-orange skies have not played well for Australia’s conservative prime minister.
“I understand the very strong feelings people have. They’ve lost everything, and there are still some very dangerous days ahead,” Morrison told Australia’s ABC News broadcaster in response to the heckling. “My job is to ensure that we steady things through these very difficult days and support the states in the response that they are providing.”
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