Australia bushfires: Scott Morrison grabs woman's hand, walks away as she pleas for help

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison grabbed a woman's hand to shake before walking away from her when she pleaded for more money for the local fire service.

Morrison's Thursday trip to the fire-ravaged settlement of Cobargo, just off the southern coast of Australia's New South Wales, has struck global headlines after residents criticised his leadership during the bushfire crisis. 

"Every single time this area has a flood or a fire, we get nothing. If we were Sydney, if we were north coast, we would be flooded with donations with urgent emergency relief," one said.

The town of roughly 800 has seen multiple buildings destroyed and at least two people killed. It's within a large area currently being evacuated of tourists as authorities expect hellish conditions to get worse on Saturday.

One of a plethora of videos to emerge from the visit is of Morrison approaching a young woman as he is given a tour by another man, reported to be a local Councillor. She stares at the Prime Minister, who holds out his hand to her. Morrison then slightly bows and quickly grabs her right hand with both his hands. She then shakes back.

"I'm only shaking your hand if you give more funding to our [Rural Fire Service]," the woman says, visibly and audibly upset.

"So many people have lost their homes."

The Councillor then intervenes, taking the woman by the shoulders. The Prime Minister then begins walking away, as the woman continues to stare at him.

"We need more help," she says as Morrison goes to talk to someone else.

It wasn't the only instance of Morrison grabbing a seemingly-unwilling person's hand in Cobargo. 

Video also shows the Prime Minister greeting a firefighter sitting at a table. Morrison puts out his hand, but the firefighter refuses to shake it. The Prime Minister responds by saying "oh well", grabbing the man's hand, patting him on the back and then awkwardly walking behind him.

But other firefighters were more willing to speak to the Prime Minister, who said he understood emotions were raw.

"Well, I'm not surprised people are feeling very raw at the moment and that's why I came today, to be here, to see it for myself, to offer what comfort I could. But you can't always, in every circumstance, I think everyone understands that," he told reporters.

"I appreciate the welcome we received, [his wife] Jenny and I. But at the same time, I understand the very strong feelings people have, they've lost everything."

The fires have become a political nightmare for the Prime Minister, who has been labelled incompetent and out-of-touch after firstly holidaying in Hawaii in December as his country burned, and then on New Year's Day taking photos with cricketers. 

He apologised for the Hawaii trip and returned, but continues to be dogged by questions of whether his Government is doing enough to tackle climate change and its effect on creating the dry conditions fires thrive in.

More than 110 fires burn across New South Wales while around 45 are ripping across Victoria. It's believed 18 people have been killed in the fires.