Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was enjoying the Hawaiian sunshine while two volunteer firefighters died battling bushfires at home Thursday, prompting what Reuters calls a "rare" apology. "I deeply regret any offense caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family," Morrison said in a Friday statement, adding that he'd return home immediately. In a radio interview, he said the trip was a surprise for his daughters after he had to cancel a January leave. "I don't hold a hose, mate … but I know that Australians would want me back," he said, per CNN. A day earlier, hundreds of protesters gathered at his home in Sydney. One in a Hawaiian shirt carried a sign reading, "ScoMo, where the bloody hell are you?"
Anger has been mounting over the government's climate change policies amid devastating bushfires that have wiped out more than 800 homes on the country's east coast. Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O'Dwyer, 36—reportedly killed in a vehicle rollover—were the seventh and eighth firefighters to die in New South Wales since the start of October. Ten other firefighters suffered injuries Thursday as NSW declared a state of emergency. "The worst imaginable set of circumstances unfolded," says NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Conditions were expected to improve Friday but then reach a "catastrophic" level on Saturday. Another NSW official says "it would be a miracle if we don't [lose more homes]." (More Australia stories.)