Five dead after snow, ice and floods cause chaos

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A CLIMBER FELL to his death in Snowdonia yesterday and four people were killed on the roads as freezing weather descended across Britain.

The heaviest snowfalls this winter made driving treacherous in central and southern England and Wales. The West Country was hit by flooding as 3.5in of rain fell. Forecasters said western parts of the country could see more sleet or snow and police warned motorists to beware of snow and ice. In the worst-affected areas they were advising drivers to avoid travelling if possible.

The Snowdonia climbing accident happened when two men slid 400ft from Banana Gully near the summit of the 3,000ft peak Y Garn. Roger Jones, leader of Ogwen rescue team, said the climbers were near the top of a gully when one slipped and the other followed. Theywere flown by an RAF helicopter to Gwynedd hospital, where the more seriously injured climber, a man of 25, died. His 32-year-old companion suffered injuries that were serious but not thought to be life-threatening, rescuers said.

Seven inches of snow were reported to have fallen on the A470 near Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales.

The weather was blamed for road accidents across southern England. A three-year-old girl died when she was thrown from a skidding car in Oxshott, Surrey and a woman died on the M4 motorway near Hungerford, Berkshire, when a motorist slowed to help at the scene of a crash but was hit from behind by a goods vehicle.

On the A34 at Milton, Oxfordshire, a driver was killed when a vehicle skidded into a lorry, and on the A361 at Chipping Warden, Northamptonshire, a 61-year-old man died in a head-on collision.

Flooding was worst in Cornwall, where the equivalent of a month's rain fell in 36 hours. The river Neet was one of several rivers to flood.

In Somerset firemen used an inflatable dinghy to rescue a group of elderly day-trippers whose coach was submerged at Ruishton near Taunton.

The only places where the cold snap brought cheer were Scotland's winter-sports centres, which opened for the first weekend of the season. Clear skies, severe frost and light winds meant "excellent" conditions for skiers and snow boarders, about 6,000 of whom headed for the slopes. At The Lecht, Cairngorm all 12 runs were open and more than 1,000 people took to the pistes in temperatures of minus 3C.