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Hundreds arrested for deliberately setting fires as Australian bushfires continue to rage

SYDNEY, Jan. 13 (People’s Daily Online/ Yuting Ma) The catastrophic Australian bushfires have been burning since last September, while record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought have intensified this massive crisis.

At least 28 lives have so far been lost and an estimated 10 million hectares (100,000 sq km or 15.6 million acres) of bush, forest and parks have been burned, with over 2,000 homes destroyed.

Recent official figures showed that the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has received almost 9,000 claims since September from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. The damage bill from bushfires across the country is estimated to be $700 million.

While firefighters are working around the clock to stop the blaze, police have also been busy hunting down active firebugs. Since last November, the NSW Police Force has taken legal action against 183 people for 205 bushfire-related offenses, including 24 people charged over alleged deliberately-lit bushfires. 43 people were charged with deliberately lighting fires in Victoria while 101 were picked up for setting bushfires.

Police are appealing to the community to provide footage and/or images from phones, dashcams, or other devices, that show any of the fires in their infancy, even if only from a distance. They also encourage people to provide images to local police stations or upload the evidence through Crime Stoppers online.

The penalty for arson causing death in Victoria and NSW is up to 25 years’ imprisonment. The maximum penalty for intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire is 15 years’ imprisonment in Victoria and 21 years in NSW. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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