More than 350 soldiers have joined the 700 firefighters who have been struggling to put out the flames since Saturday.
“I am completely stunned by the number of deaths”.
Authorities had previously said that temperatures which have soared to 40C in recent days might have played a part in the inferno, centred about 95 miles north-east of the capital Lisbon.
A huge wall of thick smoke and bright red flames towered over the top of trees near houses in the wooded region.
Many of those killed died while trapped in their cars as huge flames swept over a road amid intense fires Prime Minister Antonio Costa described as the “the biggest tragedy” the country has experienced in years. The rest of the bodies were found outside of the cars or in the forest, the official said.
As Alison Roberts reports from Lisbon for our Newscast unit, officials believe a lightning strike is likely to blame for the Pedrogão Grande fire, and they have ruled out a criminal cause.
Juncker wrote in the letter that “Our thoughts are with all the victims, their families and all the courageous soldiers of peace that in a very hard terrain and under challenging circumstances continue to fight this bad fire”. In August of a year ago, the island of Madeira was devastated by a fire that killed three people and more than a thousand had to be evacuated from their homes.
The number of deaths is expected to rise and according to CNN, 54 people have been injured including eight firefighters.
Local resident Isabel Brandao said that she had feared for her life.
Emergency service workers were battling 156 fires across the country on Sunday, Prime Minister Costa said, adding that most of the victims had died in just one of them.
On Sunday, Costa also tweeted his “deepest regret for the victims. and a word of encouragement and strength for all who help combat this scourge”.
Firefighting aircraft were being sent from France and Spain, the EU’s humanitarian aid commissioner Christos Stylianides said.
Portuguese firefighters work to stop a forest fire from reaching the village of Avelar in central Portugal at sunrise Sunday. Citing the high temperatures, it said that all outdoor fires were prohibited.
Pope Francis prayed for the victims during his weekly prayer on Sunday. The Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, said “Greece will offer any help necessary to fight the fires”.
“I express my closeness with the dear Portuguese people for the devastating fire that is affecting the forests around Pedrogao Grande, causing many deaths and injuries”.