Two Italian students have been told to pay a joint fine of 27 million euros (£23million) after they were accused of letting a barbecue start a forest fire.
Prosecutors say the two 22-year-olds, who dispute the claim, lit a barbecue with a group of friends near Lake Como in the North of Italy, on December 30, to celebrate New Year.
The wildfire was started by the embers of the barbecue, eventually ravaging 2,471 acres of forest.
Several buildings were destroyed, including one in which all the domestic animals died, according to the daily La Repubblica.
The huge fine for the two students was calculated in accordance with a decade-old formula which determines the financial penalty depending on the scale of the damage.
It was unclear how the two students were expected to afford the fine. Their lawyers have three weeks to challenge the amount in an administrative court
Although the students have expressed regret for their actions, they have said that they are being scapegoated.
‘We are the scapegoats of a fire that cannot be explained’, one told La Stampa newspaper.
‘We are the real victims of this story… We immediately alerted the fire brigade and threw ourselves at the flames to try and put them out.’ (DailyMail)