A state of emergency has been declared in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, whose suburbs are threatened by a major forest fire.

The mayor of the medieval port city said emergency services were ready to evacuate residents from the hillside districts above the city centre.

Firefighters and water-bombing planes are struggling to contain the blaze.

Hot weather across southern Europe has led to some of the worst forest fires on record, European officials say.

"We have set up a civil security headquarters and we're ready for evacuation of inhabitants from the districts that are in danger," said Dubrovnik Mayor Dubravka Suica.

She has urged women, children and elderly people in the affected hillside districts to go to a shelter that has been set up.

Soaring temperatures

The fire has been burning for several days, fed by strong gusts of wind.

Unexploded landmines left over from the Croatian war in the 1990s are also hampering the efforts of firefighters.

Ms Suica said tourists were the least at risk because the seaside districts where they stayed were not threatened by the fire.

More than 3,000 sq km (1,200 sq miles) of forest in southern Europe has already burned this year, almost as much as in the whole of 2006, the European Commission said on Thursday.

Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy have all been affected, as well as countries like the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Turkey.

Spain and Portugal are also at risk in the days ahead as temperatures soar there as well.