Australia’s prime minister has been booed after he said said the “tragedy” of the country’s raging wildfires was dairy farmers having to throw away milk.
Scott Morrison told a press conference the crisis, which has killed 17 people and destroyed 1,400 homes, was likely to last for months.
“It will continue to go on until we can get some decent rain that can deal with some of the fires that have been burning for many, many months,” he said on Thursday.
He also said dairies in New South Wales had lost power and were being forced to waste milk: “In particular, down in Cobargo and places like that, where dairies have been milking and they simply have to pour the milk down the hill because of the lack of power to these areas at this time.
“That’s the tragedy of what’s occurring as a result of these disasters.”
Mr Morrison was later forced to leave a meeting with bushfire victims in Cobargo on Thursday, after they began shouting at him and booing. Two people, a father and son, died in the area on Monday night.
The prime minister grabbed the hand of a woman who said she would only shake his hand if he gave more funding to the Rural Fire Service. “So many people here have lost their homes,” she said.
“This is not fair. We are totally forgotten down here. Every single time this area gets a flood or a fire we get nothing,” one resident yelled.
“If we lived in Sydney or on the North Coast we would be flooded with donations and emergency relief.”
As Mr Morrison was driven out of the town, residents shouted: “Scumbag!”
Thousands of tourists fled the country’s eastern coast on Thursday ahead of worsening fire conditions.
State transport minister Andrew Constance said it was the “largest mass relocation of people out of the region that we’ve ever seen”. On Wednesday he broke down on live television over the impact of the fires.