Australia keeps burning and the entire world is helplessly watching and praying. It almost shows no sign of stopping. Ecologists suggest that the widespread loss of animal and plant life can tip the ecological balance. The koala population is taking a massive hit. Around 25 people have been killed and around 2000 houses have been swallowed by the fire. Plus, 13 million acres of land have been destroyed. It is being said that a land equivalent to two times of Maryland has gone down under the bushfires in Australia.
And when among all this terrible news, we hear that the bushfires might have been a deliberate attack, it is shocking.
Australian authorities have arrested over 150 people and have charged them for deliberately setting the bushfires. These people who have been charged with setting the bushfires in Australia have already been arrested from New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, and Victoria. In NSW alone, around 24 have been arrested. 53 people are facing trials regarding why they failed to meet the fire bans set on the areas. 47 other people have been arrested for disposing of a lighted cigarette when they were outdoors.
The police in Queensland has concluded that around 103 fires may have been lit with mal-intent. 97 people were caught with the charge of deliberately setting the bushfires, out of which there were 67 juveniles.
As per the Rural Fire Act, NSW Crimes Act and Rural Fires Regulation – there are penalties for deliberately setting bushfires. It can go up to 25 years of imprisonment for property damage as well as endangering of life. You can also get around 21 years. Since there is a fire ban in place, anyone caught lighting fires can get imprisoned for up to 12 months or have to pay a fine of AUD 5,500. You can also get fined if you are seen lighting a tobacco product within 15 meters of the area – especially if there is hay, grain stacks or dry grass around.
Dr. Paul Read, who is a Co-Director of the National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson has said, “About 85 per cent are related to human activity, 13 per cent confirmed arson and 37 per cent suspected arson”.
According to Janet Stanley, a bushfire expert, the arsonists were mostly young people between the ages of 12-24. According to her, “Unfortunately, 10 per cent of people who we think light fires are 10 years old or younger.”
It is unclear from any data as to why this is the case. In general, it was always thought that old people were the ones who lit fires. They may have had a history of neglect and child abuse and because of that, they might be willing to cause a bit of fuss. But the data is unclear. Shockingly, some of the kids caught are happy to be in jail. They feel safer there.
The bushfires are a tragedy and knowing that young people are deliberately setting the bushfires in Australia is even more tragic. It shows a lot about the society we are living in.
Featured image: Wavell Bush