Prime Minister Scott Morrison has cancelled his family holiday and will be returning to Sydney as soon as possible after the deaths of two firefighters.
Mr Morrison has faced widespread condemnation after he decided to take a holiday – widely believed to be in Hawaii – as the bushfires continued to burn across Australia’s east.
In a statement, the prime minister said the death of two volunteer firefighters overnight had prompted his decision.
“Given these most recent tragic events, I will be returning to Sydney from leave as soon as can be arranged,” he said.
Scott Morrison ‘deeply regrets’ backlash
He also apologised to anyone who took offence to the timing of his holiday.
"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,” he said.
Mr Morrison said he had been receiving regular updates on the bushfires disaster as well as the ongoing developments following the White Island volcano eruption.
He offered his condolences and sympathies to the families of the two firefighters.
"They were bravely defending their communities with an unmatched spirit and a dedication that will forever set them apart amongst our most courageous Australians," he said.
His return was announced after a torrid few days for the prime minister.
On Wednesday, footage from a 2010 appearance on Q&A emerged of Mr Morrison slamming former Victoria Police Commissioner Christine Nixon after she went for dinner at a pub during the height of the Black Saturday fires.
And on Thursday, hundreds gathered outside Kirribilli House to protest Mr Morrison’s inaction on climate change and his absence during a national crisis.
Mr Morrison’s office was criticised for their lack of transparency regarding his holiday, which was pushed forward due to engagements in India and Japan in January.
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