Big freeze continues after six deaths

Three people died after being caught up in avalanches and three others were killed in a crash on a snowy stretch of motorway as the cold snap continued to grip Britain today.

The fatalities came as forecasters predicted a chilly night tonight for New Year's Eve revellers with temperatures at midnight likely to dip below zero in many areas.

The death last night of a climber who was rescued from a mountainside after an avalanche brought the number of lives claimed by the freezing weather to six in the last 24 hours.

Earlier two other climbers died after a separate avalanche on Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis.

The fatal crash happened last night on the M62 near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire as snow swept across northern England, Wales and Scotland.

Bilal Bholat, 24, Imran Bodi, 27, and Alnoor Rajani, 31, died when the Mitsubishi saloon car they were travelling in left the westbound carriageway and collided with the nearside barrier.

The men, all from the Preston area, were pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Police said the avalanche in the Coire na Ciste area of Ben Nevis was several hundred metres in length.

The latest man to die was swept away in Torridon, Wester Ross. The 54-year-old was found alive and conscious at Liathach Ridge by rescuers, but it is thought he died after being taken to hospital.

Two other climbers were rescued after a third avalanche on Beinn an Dothaidh near Bridge of Orchy in Argyll at around midday.

After another avalanche, a rescue was launched in Torridon when a climber called emergency services to report that the friend he was with had been swept away.

The alarm was raised in Torridon shortly before noon, just an hour after the avalanche at Ben Nevis.

Rescuers found the man conscious but cold with an injured arm and he was flown to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness by the Stornoway Coastguard helicopter.

The avalanches all took place within a matter of hours and followed a warning from experts.

The calm but cold weather increases the likelihood of avalanches because of the build-up of surface frost.

A series of accidents yesterday added to the jams on many major roads. Accidents closed parts of the A14 in Suffolk, the A5 in Shropshire and the A628 in Greater Manchester.

A large tree fell on an empty car near Blaenavon, south Wales, blocking the Blaenavon-Cwmavon road.

Rail services between Perth and Inverness were affected by the bad weather, while a broken down train at one of the country's busiest stations - Clapham Junction in south London - delayed services in and out of London's Waterloo station.

By late afternoon, snow was affecting most areas of Wales, with wintry showers in Scotland and north-east England.

Gareth Harvey, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the Press Association's weather division, said party-goers seeing in the year should be prepared for sub-zero temperatures.

"For those staying up until midnight there will be clear skies and temperatures below freezing in some areas."