Jan 7, 2020

Australia wildfires: NSW police arrest 24 arson suspects

A firefighter in the Australian state of New South Wales. Photo: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

As firefighters battle wildfires across Australia, police in New South Wales have arrested dozens of people for offenses related to fires, including 24 for deliberately lighting fires and three for looting fire-ravaged communities.

The big picture: NSW police said in a statement Monday that officers have taken legal action against 183 people for fire-related offenses since Nov. 8, including for "allegedly discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land."

The community and the government have a right to be outraged. We are not living in South Central LA, we don't live in Syria, we don't do this to each other. This is the South Coast of New South Wales."
— NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott on the looting suspects
  • On Tuesday, NSW Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott told reporters three men were charged with looting near Nowra. He said anyone who wants to loot the home of a family that has "potentially lost everything" is "the lowest of the low" and should face the full force of the law.

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Australia's deadly fires: What you need to know

The Australian flag flies under red skies from fires on Jan. 4 in Bruthen, Victoria. Photos: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

The Orroral Valley fire has burned through nearly 25% of the district that's home to Australia's capital, News.com.au reports, after ACT Emergency Controller Georgeina Whelan said the fire was rapidly growing into the south east on Saturday.

The latest: The Orroral fire grew from 81,544 acres to at least 129,073 acres on Saturday, based on Whelan's initial statement, and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr's following estimate. Whelan said the Orroral fire is expected to move "well into" New South Wales, which creates potential for it to reach and merge with other bushfires in the area.

More than 1 billion animals believed dead in Australian wildfires

A koala named Paul from Lake Innes Nature Reserve recovers from his burns in the ICU at The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, Nov. 29, 2019, Port Macquarie, Australia. Photo: Nathan Edwards/Getty Images

More than 1 billion animals are believed to have been killed in wildfires that have ravaged Australia since September, University of Sydney professor Chris Dickman told the Huffington Post in an update from his previous estimate of 480 million last week.

Why it matters: The fires have threatened Australia's wildlife, known for its rare animals and distinctive ecosystems. The environment was already imperiled by deforestation to support the country's growing agribusiness.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 7, 2020

Rain hits Australia's fire-ravaged states, but bushfires still burn

A downpour in Sydney, where a severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for some parts as the city experiences its wettest weekend in four months, but bushfires continue to burn. Photo: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

Heavy rain has triggered flash floods in the fire-ravaged Australian state of Queensland, SBS News reports. New South Wales also got a soak and further rainfall and thunderstorms were expected. But bushfires continued to burn over the weekend.

The state of play: There were over "50 reports of flooded roads across Queensland's southeast," per SBS, which notes flooded theme parks were forced to close. Heavy rainfall and thunderstorms were forecast for Victoria, where 15 fires were still burning, according to the Guardian. In NSW, over 1,300 firefighters were tackling flames across "69 firegrounds," the state's Rural Fire Service said, with 19 fires still not contained.

Go deeperArrowJan 19, 2020