The Australian Police announced on Monday the prosecution of 24 people for allegedly causing forest fires deliberately, after the death of at least 18 people due to the devastating fires in the southeast of the country.

The New South Wales Police said that, in addition, it has initiated “legal actions” against more than a hundred other people for failing to comply with fire-related legislation, without giving further details.

The police spokesman added that the numerous fires recorded in recent weeks in the state have also resulted in the destruction of thousands of homes and more than 4.9 million hectares of land burned. The penalties contemplated by the legislation for this type of crimes include up to 21 years in prison for causing a fire and 25 years in case of homicide due to the flames.

The situation in Australia has been aggravated after a warm front that exceeded all forecasts. Between the winds of more than 100 kilometers per hour and the temperatures in excess of 48ºC in localities such as Penrith, the fires have behaved “erratically” to the point that firefighters have only been able to direct people to safe areas. In this context, the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, announced on Sunday the creation of a national agency for the recovery of the country that will be led by former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin.

Morrison said the agency will use a “series of support measures,” including payments to help small businesses to recover the infrastructure that has been affected, as well as assistance to remove the carcasses of animals caused by the fires. He said that although “many faults have been thrown” is the time to focus on the response to fires.

“Many people have blamed me, the Greens … Guilt does not help anyone right now and excessive analysis of these issues is not a productive exercise. The proper action at this time is to work together,” he said.

In addition, he revealed that he will consider the creation of a commission on the fire crisis along with “states and territories”, although he insisted that the current priority is to end them, while pointing out that there is no “doubt” in the country about climate change and the impact it is having on Australia.