Australia’s Wildfire: 24 arrested for deliberately setting fire

Twenty four Australians in the state of New South Wales have been arrested since early November for intentionally setting fires as record –large blazes continue to burn across the country.

There have been 24 people charged with deliberately setting fires among 183 facing legal action in the state, according to the New South Wales Police Force.

In addition to those facing the most serious charges of starting fires intentionally, authorities said another 53 people are facing legal action for not complying with the state’s fire ban and 47 people have faced legal action for discarding a lit cigarette or match on land.

Starting a bushfire intentionally and being reckless in causing its spread can result in up to 21 years in prison, authorities said. Legal actions can range “from cautions through to criminal charges,” according to NSW police.

At least 24 people have been killed and over 2,000 homes have been destroyed by the bushfires, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday. Over 12 million acres have burned in Australia since the start of the fire season.

New South Wales, in the southeastern part of the country, has been particularly hard hit by fires this season. The state includes the capital of Sydney, Australia’s largest city, as well as Newcastle, Maitland, Central City and Wollongong. It is the country’s most populous state.

The University of Sydney estimated 480 million animals have perished in Australia’s fires in New South Wales alone.

The Insurance Council of Australia said Tuesday local time the estimated damage bill with insurance claims has reached $485 million U.S., while Morrison said Monday that the government was committing an extra $1.4 billion U.S. toward the recovery effort. Tens of millions had already been promised to the cause.

The fires have received worldwide attention in recent weeks, with many politicians and celebrities rallying to the cause. Late Monday U.S. time, Australian actor Chris Hemsworth pledged $1 million to fight the wildfires. Celebrities such as singer Pink, Australian actress Nicole Kidman and musician husband Keith Urban have donated $500,000 each to the cause with many calling attention to the affects of climate change and global warming for accelerating the spread of bushfires.

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