24 hurt in Slovak snowstorm; heat causes worries in Portugal

24 hurt in Slovak snowstorm; heat causes worries in Portugal

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s police say 24 people were injured Thursday in a 40-car pileup during a heavy snowstorm in the northeastern part of the country.

Rescuers spokesman Boris Chmel says the crashes occurred at about 6 a.m. (0400 GMT) near the city of Poprad. The damaged cars completely blocked the major traffic route connecting the capital Bratislava with the eastern part of the country.

Some parts of Central Europe, including Slovakia and neighbouring Czech Republic, have been hit by an unusual April cold snap, with freezing temperatures and snow disrupting traffic. Up to 50 centimetres (20 inches) of snow has been reported in some areas since Wednesday morning.

But in Portugal, high temperatures and low rainfall have prompted fears of an early outbreak of forest fires.

The National Civil Protection Authority says temperatures will reach 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) in some areas, accompanied by a gusting wind, and that the fire risk will be “very high” in central and northern regions through Saturday. The agency is forbidding outdoor cooking, fireworks and the burning of crop residue.

The peak fire season traditionally begins July 1. Portugal will have more than 9,700 firefighters, more than 2,000 vehicles and 48 water-dumping aircraft on standby from that date.

The Associated Press

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