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
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower