Thaw to bring wave of misery

The deep freeze which has gripped Britain for more than a week will slowly ease over the next few days, the Meteorological Office has forecast. But it will bring a deluge of burst water pipes and mains in its wake.

Twelve of today's 32 FA Cup third round football matches have been cancelled. The fate of five more depends on pitch inspections due before kick-off.

Many rugby games were also cancelled, and horse racing remains at a complete standstill today after a week without any meetings.

The London Weather Centre said temperatures would sink to -10C overnight with the South-east - nearest to the even colder continent - once again the coldest area.

It was warmer yesterday in Greenland than it was in much of Europe. Hundreds have been killed by the cold and in Bonn gravediggers have had to use pneumatic drills to break the frozen earth.

The continents' major rivers have frozen, with the Elbe closed to inland navigation from Hamburg almost to the Czech border. Ice is also building in the channel between the North and Baltic seas and the Danube remained closed to traffic from Germany through Austria to Slovakia.

Barge traffic was halted in much of eastern France after parts of the Loire and key canals were sealed with four inches of ice. While the Rhine is still navigable from Rotterdam to Basle, the freeze has hit tributaries and nearby canals.

In Britain, snow showers and Siberian winds from the north and north- east are forecast through the weekend, with maximum daytime temperatures no higher than 4C.

A spokesman said: ``Some parts of the country are colder than they have been for 15 years. But this is still not in the same class as 1982. Then we were seeing temperatures down as far as -26C in Shropshire.''

Frozen water pipes were blamed for an explosion at Easterton near Devizes, Wiltshire, which lifted the roof, blew out a corner and shattered the windows of a bungalow. A gas boiler overheated and blew up. A farrier, Gary Urch, 32, and his partner Anne Newbery, 42, and their two children suffered cuts and severe shock.

The thin-ice accidents which have killed several people over the past few week have been ignored by some parents. Their children carried on riding mountain bikes and walking on frozen ponds and lakes.

The Department of Social Security said it had paid out pounds 27m in cold weather handouts to more than 1 million vulnerable pensioners and families reliant on state benefits. This is the second highest amount paid since records began in 1986; last year payments had topped pounds 60m.

Labour's social security spokeswoman, Harriet Harman, said Britain suffered the highest number of excess deaths annually in northern Europe associated with the cold.

The freeze has also claimed the annual world pooh-sticks championships, which were postponed until March, the first time this has happened since the event began in 1963. The River Thames is frozen at the venue in Long Wittenham, Oxfordshire.

Europe's big chill, page 10

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US