Bitter winter weather claims four lives but forecasters say a warm-up is on the way

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The death toll from the bitterly cold weather enveloping Britain rose to four as snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures continued to cause havoc on the roads.

The death toll from the bitterly cold weather enveloping Britain rose to four as snow, ice and sub-zero temperatures continued to cause havoc on the roads.

In Norfolk, 21-year-old Anna Davis died and three others were injured when the driver of a car she was in skidded on ice and lost control. And a woman was killed when five cars collided on the A30 near Okehampton in Devon, where conditions were so bad a lorry carrying grit slid off the road it was spreading on. Another motorist died near Mevagissey in Cornwall and the fourth victim drowned in a frozen lake.

The coldest temperature registered so far was at Tulloch Bridge in western Scotland yesterday with minus 11C. Birmingham and Manchester recorded minus 6C overnight and the London suburbs were as cold as minus 4C. Daytime temperatures did not rise above 6C anywhere in Britain.

Last night's New Year revellers were forced to contend with more sub-zero temperatures at outdoor events organised throughout the country. Freezing conditions continue today then gradually improve, forecasters say. Police and Rospa, the accident prevention organisation, repeated warnings for drivers to give themselves more time and take extra care until conditions improve.

They appealed for people to stay away from frozen lakes after the body of 21-year-old Yuie Wai Cheam was recovered from Harlaw Reservoir near Edinburgh. He had been throwing stones on the ice with friends then moved onto the surface and fell through.

Yesterday his Hong Kong-born father, Tung Shing Cheam said police told him his "quiet, polite" son had died seven hours after he dropped him off to work at Safeway. "First I thought he was in trouble or he'd been fighting," he said. "But they said he'd fallen in the water. It's so sudden. He was too young, too young to die."

Roger Vincent, spokesman for Rospa, said the tragedy highlighted the dangers of open water during cold snaps. "We are extremely concerned at the severe weather we are having and waterways are becoming frozen enough to tempt people out on the ice. The problem is that the temptation nearly always ends in people dying."

In south Wales a 70-year-old man was in hospital yesterday recovering from hypothermia after being lost in woodland close to Bon-y-maen near Swansea on Sunday. Police said if he had not been found he would not have survived much longer.

Forecasters said that although most regions had now experienced the worst of the weather, icy patches would remain a danger on the roads.

"Tomorrow night the frost will become a bit patchier with temperatures rising above freezing in some parts," a spokesman for PA WeatherCentre said. "We are certainly over the worst of it. The snow is on its way out and it looks as though it's going to get warmer over the next few days," .

Today's sporting schedule has been badly disrupted by the cold, with several football and rugby league matches postponed and race meetings cancelled or postponed.

The highest-profile sporting event hit was the First Division clash between Wolves and Crew, which has been postponed because of frozen pitches. Several second- and third-division matches have been postponed, along with two rugby league friendlies and race meetings at Catterick, Leicester and Plumpton.