Australian PM Scott Morrison called 'an idiot' as he's heckled by furious crowds over bushfire chaos

AUSSIE PM Scott Morrison was branded an "idiot" as he was heckled by furious residents of a town ravaged by the devastating bushfires.

Mr Morrison, who was heavily criticised for taking a family holiday to Hawaii as the crisis erupted last month, was forced to cut short his trip to Cobargo, on the New South Wales South Coast, 280 miles south of Sydney.




It is one of the towns worst hit by killer blazes which have claimed at least 18 lives, razed 1,300 homes and businesses and destroyed nine million acres of land.

In the early hours of Tuesday, a father and son died defending their home in the town.

As he visited the town today, Mr Morrison was met with a frosty reception.

The PM was blasted for jetting on holiday to Hawaii despite the fires last month – then defending it by saying: "I don't hold a hose, mate".

One woman refused to shake his hand and said: "You're an idiot."

Another local shouted: "P*** off. You are not welcome. You won't be getting any voters round here buddy."

A woman also refused to shake the politician's hand until he agreed to boost firefighting funding and cried out "we need more help" as he walked away.

Others yelled that he "should be ashamed of himself" and called him "Scum-mo" for "leaving the country to burn" before he headed back to his chauffeur-driven limousine.

Cobargo was hit by one out-of-control fire which roared into the community on New Year's Eve, with its main street bearing the impact.

After they were met with hostility and abuse today, the Aussie PM and natural disasters minister quickly left the area.

They promised extra cash for fire victims in the devastated Bega Valley area soon after.



Speaking today Mr Morrison said the crisis was likely to last for months but urged people "to be patient".

It comes as authorities urged a mass exodus from several towns on Australia's southeast coast, an area hugely popular in the current summer peak holiday season, warning that extreme heat forecast for the weekend will further stoke the fires.

Huge areas between Bateman's Bridge and the border with Victoria state have been ruled "unsafe", sparking huge traffic jams as thousands flee the fire-ravaged coast.

People told to flee reported sitting in gridlock for up to 10 hours as the sheer weight of traffic blocked escape routes north of Ulladulla and near Cooma in the Snowy Mountains.

Mr Morrison said: "I would continue to ask people to be patient. I know you can have kids in the car and there is anxiety and there is stress and the traffic is not moving quickly but the best thing to do – the best thing that helps those out there volunteering, out there trying to restore some order to these situations is for everyone to be patient.

"That help will arrive. There are parts of both Victoria and NSW which have been completely devastated, with a loss of power and communications.

"Every absolute effort is in train to ensure that those things can be stood up as soon as possible."

Transport minister Andrew Constance described the situation as the "largest mass relocation of people out of the region that we've ever seen".

He told the Australian Broadcasting Corp: "We are going to face a worse day on Saturday than what we have been through."

As the death toll rose to 18, the premier of New South Wales declared a seven-day state of emergency starting tomorrow with high temperatures and strong winds forecast to return.

NSW Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said: "There is every potential that the conditions on Saturday will be as bad or worse than we saw (on Tuesday)."








Long queues formed outside supermarkets and petrol stations as residents and tourists sought supplies to either bunker down or escape the fires, emptying shelves of staples like bread and milk.

Military ships and helicopters are being deployed to the worst-hit areas amid warnings Australia faces a "humanitarian crisis" with shortages of food and water.

Tens of thousands of homes are without electricity in the state and telephone and internet connections are down.

Some communities have been told to boil water for drinking.

In neighbouring Victoria, 4,000 people are still stranded at Mallacoota after their escape route was cut off by fire.

Michelle Roberts, owner of the Croajingolong Cafe in Mallacoota, said: "It is hell on earth. It is the worst anybody's ever seen."

Naval ship HMAS Choules arrived in the town yesterday, where 4,000 residents and visitors have been stranded on the beach since Monday night.

Naval officials said they would open registration for evacuation this afternoon, with the HMAS Choules able to carry up to 1,000 people on the first trip.

The ship is expected to make two or three voyages over coming days.

HMAS Choules Commander Scott Houlihan said leaving by boat was the only way out of the town.

Thousands of people had already been evacuated from the greater adjoining region of East Gippsland in Victoria, one of the largest evacuations in the country since the northern city of Darwin evacuated over 35,000 people in the aftermath of cyclone Tracy in 1974.




DEATH TOLL RISES

Since the bush fire season started at least 18 people have died and 17 are missing.

The toll includes seven who died in 24 hours on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Fifteen of the dead are in New South Wales, including three firefighters.

Millions of animals are feared to have died, including 8,000 koalas.

Earlier today, Mr Morrison attended the funeral of volunteer fireman Geoffrey Keaton, 32, who died tackling a blaze near Sydney on December 19.

Heartbreaking images showed his young son – still with a dummy in his mouth – receiving a bravery medal on behalf of his hero dad.

More than 2,500 firefighters worked through New Year's Day in an effort to beat the flames as skies turned red over southern Australia.

A contingent of 39 firefighters from the United States and Canada landed in Melbourne today to help with the catastrophe.

The smoke also darkened skies in New Zealand after blowing hundreds of miles across the Tasman Sea.

The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said the state of emergency from Friday would give emergency services the authority to undertake forced evacuations and road closures at short notice.

She said: "We don't take these decisions lightly but we also want to make sure we're taking every single precaution to be prepared for what could be a horrible day on Saturday."










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