Canberra: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday acknowledged that his government had made mistakes in handling the destructive bushfires sweeping the country and for which he has received heavy criticism.
"There are things I could have handled on the ground much better," Efe news quoted Morrison as saying in an interview on the state broadcaster ABC, adding that an investigation would be launched into the fire response.
His apology comes after thousands of people demonstrated in several cities on Friday to call for his resignation, besides demanding more measures from the government against climate change and the ongoing fires that have already left 28 dead and thousands of houses charred.
Morrison, a staunch defender of polluting industries such as coal who has repeatedly rejected the proven link between global warming and the aggravation of wildfires, has received a lot of flak for his policies in recent weeks.
The conservative leader was heavily questioned for going on vacation without notice to Hawaii amid the crisis before Christmas. During his visits to affected areas, he faced firsthand the rejection from several residents who refused to shake his hand and even insulted him.
Regarding policies to deal with the effects of the climate crisis, Morrison said during the interview that the government would continue efforts to achieve its emissions reduction targets, without elaborating further.
During the ongoing wildfire disaster, Morrison has refused to acknowledge the connection between the climate crisis and the blazes by arguing that attention should be on casualties and on controlling the flames.
The bushfires that have been raging since September 2019 have destroyed more than 2,000 homes and an area twice the size of Belgium, and have killed or destroyed the habitats of an estimated one billion wild animals.
After several days high temperatures, cooler weather been forecast for the coming week, which could give a much-needed respite and an opportunity for firefighters to contain the blazes in different parts of the country.
According to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, climate change is influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous fire conditions in Australia and other parts of the world.
Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal and Morrison, before becoming the prime minister, gave a speech in parliament with a piece of coal in his hand to defend mining companies against appeals to reduce production.