Wildfires in India have burnt more than 4,000 square kilometres (1,800 square miles) and burned more than 2,600 square kilometres in 2017, destroying more than 3,000 homes, forcing 1,000 people to flee and leaving more than 1,500 people missing, an official said on Wednesday.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this year the fires have exceeded the previous record,” India’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, told the country’s parliament.

“It is the worst year in recent history.”

The fires in the eastern state of Bihar have scorched more than 60,000 acres (28,000 ha) and forced thousands to leave their homes, according to data from the state’s forest department.

India has had two previous major fires in 2017.

In March, nearly 4,300 people were killed and thousands more were displaced in the fires in Madhya Pradesh state, in which an estimated 5,400 people were displaced and 4,500 were killed.

In May, an estimated 10,000 villagers were killed when more than 100,000 saplings and trees were destroyed in the fire that broke out in the state of Maharashtra.

In July, an 11,000 hectare (32,000 acre) fire burned for nearly two months in the southern state of Karnataka, killing 2,500, injuring 7,000 and leaving thousands homeless.

“The fires are going to get worse,” said Prakesh Sharma, the chief minister of Madhya India, a mountainous state that has faced severe drought conditions in recent years.

“These fires will continue for at least another year.”

The latest fires came amid a worsening drought in India.

In the first half of the year, India experienced three years of record-low rainfall and dry conditions, with a total of around 25 million hectares (56 million acres) of land lost or damaged.

India is now forecast to see a total loss of 5.2 million hectares, according the World Bank.

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