Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was heckled in a town ravaged by bushfires, piling pressure on the leader amid death of at least 18 people.
An angry firefighter refused to shake Morrison’s hand when he visited the town of Cobargo in New South Wales state on Thursday.
Video footage showed Morrison tried to grab the man’s hand, who then got up and walked away, sparking an apology from the prime minister.
A local fire official explained that the man had lost his house while defending others’ homes.
Another man blasted Morrison for watching fireworks over Sydney Harbour from his official waterfront mansion, Kirribilli House, while fires raged further south on New Year’s Eve.
“You won’t be getting any votes down here, buddy. You’re an idiot,” the man shouted.
“I don’t see Kirribilli burning after the fireworks,” he screamed.
Responding to the public anger, Morrison said he didn’t take the attacks personally.
“I just see it as a sense of frustration and hurt and loss and anger that is out there about what is the ferocity of these natural disasters,” he told reporters.
“And I understand that, and we will seek to provide that comfort and support in whatever way we can,” he added.
Even a state politician from his own Liberal party whose seat is in the region took a swipe at the prime minister.
The prime minister, who won a surprise election victory last May, ended 2019 on a sour note with fires raging across five states while he took off on a family holiday to Hawaii. Facing criticism, he cut the holiday short and apologised for making a mistake.
He is now considering cancelling an official trip to India scheduled for January 13 to 16, due to the fire emergency.