- Associated Press - Thursday, April 20, 2017

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) - Parts of Europe struggled Thursday with both unseasonably cold and unseasonably warm weather.

Slovakian police say 24 people were injured Thursday in a 40-car pileup during a heavy snowstorm in the northeastern part of the country.

Rescuer spokesman Boris Chmel said the crashes occurred at 6 a.m. 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 and Eastern Europe, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bosnia, were hit by an unusual April cold snap, with freezing temperatures and snow disrupting traffic. Up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) of snow was reported in some areas since Wednesday morning.

Apple blossoms were coated with ice in Denzlingen, a town in southwestern Germany, while snowfall covered the streets of the central Romanian city of Miercurea Ciuc. In the Swiss Alps town of Saxon, water was being sprayed on apricot orchards to protest blooming buds from unusually low temperatures.

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

The Portuguese 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, over 2,000 vehicles and 48 water-dumping aircraft on standby from that date.

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