PNG ravaged by fires

3:35 pm on 23 September 2015

Papua New Guinea has been struck by hundreds of fires over the past few days and there are predictions the situation could get worse without any rain.

Phil Shearman from the University of Papua New Guinea's Remote Sensing Centre says satellite imagery is showing numbers not seen since the drought of 1997 and '98.

Dr Shearman says the current dry period has led to a high fire risk.

"It's possible to set fire to things that weren't able to set fire to before so we've been seeing in the last three months a five-fold increase in the number of fires that are occurring. Judging by what happened in the '97-'98 El Nino period you would be expecting to see an increased expansion of that."

Dr Shearman says up to 15% of the mountainous forest coverage was lost during the '97-'98 El Nino period.