Firefighters say the death toll in southern Greece from the worst forest fires in decades has risen to at least 41 and is expected to rise.

They say a mother and her four children, who had been reported missing, are believed to be among the dead.

Firefighters warned Saturday that the toll could rise as they begin searching the affected zones on the Peloponnese Peninsula for more victims. Deaths have been reported near the town of Areopolis and near Zakharo, on the west side.

The firefighters were working through the night, while 500 soldiers were to join the firefighting efforts Saturday.

The Greek government declared a state of emergency in two districts and asked for help from the European Union.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has visited the affected areas.

In Italy, several fires are burning in the south and killed an 80-year-old man. Firefighters are also battling blazes in Sicily, where three people died earlier this week.

Portugal, which has been spared the worst of the fires due to an unusually cool and rainy summer, was also hit this week, with more than 300 firefighters battling a blaze near the capital, Lisbon.

Greece has experienced an unprecedented outbreak of forest fires this year, brought on by a combination of soaring temperatures, hot winds and months of drought.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.