Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was due to visit India on January 13-16 following an invitation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo Credit: Facebook)
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday indicated that he is likely to cancel his first official visit to India scheduled from January 13 amidst the catastrophic bushfire crisis in his country. Massive fires ripped through swathes of Australia’s south-east on New Year’s Eve, killing at least 20 people and stranding holidaymakers as seaside towns were ringed by flames.
Australian authorities on Thursday declared a state of emergency and forced the evacuation of residents, tourists and closure of roads in the bushfire zones in the states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria ahead of Saturday’s forecast of “horrible” fire conditions due to the intensified heatwave.
Morrison was due to visit India on January 13-16 following an invitation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
During a press conference in Bairnsdale in Victoria, the prime minister said “The National Security Committee is going to hook up actually in the morning on this. I’m inclined not to proceed with that visit (to India).”
“There are some issues that I need to resolve formally, through what you would expect when you make a decision of that nature. To work though those issues with the other ministers. But that is my inclination at this point, I’ll make a further announcement on that and we will make the arrangements accordingly,” he said.
Prime Minister Morrison said a further announcement would be made about the decision to cancel his trip to India.
Last month, Morrison had come under fire and was forced to cut short a holiday to Hawaii just before Christmas following the bushfire conditions.
On Thursday, during his visit to the bushfire hit NSW South Coast town of Cobargo, Morrison was also heckled by angry locals.
He later told ABC news channel that he came to Cobargo to “see it for myself, to offer what comfort I could, but you can’t always in every circumstances”.
“I’m not surprised people are feeling very raw at the moment,” Morrison said adding “I understand the very strong feelings people have. They’ve lost everything and there are still some very dangerous days ahead.”
Media reports said that a planned trip to Japan is also in doubt now.