No sign of let-up as big freeze continues

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The Independent Online

Snow and ice took its toll on the UK again today, with transport disrupted and sports fixtures called off - and weather forecasters said there is early no thaw in sight.



They warned that more heavy snow was sweeping large parts of the country today.



Bitter winds from northern Europe meant the big freeze felt even colder after temperatures fell overnight to minus 14C (7F) in Cumbria and minus 14.5C (6F) in Tulloch Bridge in Inverness-shire, Scotland.



Elsewhere around the UK they were solidly below freezing - minus 7C (19F) in Manchester, minus 6C (21F) in Cardiff and minus 2C (28F) in London.



Conditions were expected to be freezing virtually everywhere during the day, but forecasters said it would feel much colder because of icy blasts sweeping in from Scandinavia and Germany.



Snow fell across eastern England overnight, with showers continuing through the morning, particularly in the south-east.



This was forecast to move westwards, pushing into the Midlands and Wales, where "heavy bursts" of snowy showers could hit tonight.



As the coldest spell for more than 30 years drags on, some of this weekend's biggest sports events joined the growing list of weather-related casualties.



Six Premier League games have been called off - at Wigan, Sunderland, Fulham, Hull and Burnley today and Liverpool tomorrow - with other league games, horse racing meetings and rugby union matches also postponed.



Grit and gas supplies are also faltering, with more disruption affecting rail, road and air travel.



Heavy snow in Ireland led to Dublin Airport suspending all flights today.



Flights were also diverted and delayed at Belfast's George Best Airport while nine easyJet flights were cancelled to and from UK airports including Gatwick and Luton.



British Airways cancelled around 50 flights from Heathrow.



A BA spokesman said: "We intend to operate a full schedule at Gatwick and London City airports albeit with some delays due to the effects of the severe weather.



"Where possible, we will advise customers of the cancellations in advance."



Train passengers experienced delays and cancellations on some routes, although more operators planned to run a normal weekend service.



Eurostar was running around two-thirds of its normal Saturday service from London, a spokeswoman said.



Elsewhere, nearly 100 businesses have been forced to stop using gas by the National Grid in a bid to conserve supplies in the face of record demand.



Council leaders also agreed to reduce their use of grit by a quarter to eke out supplies. The Highways Agency has already stopped treating hard shoulders.



The University of Southampton said that it would close on Monday because it had no grit.



"Our current supply of grit has run out and our pre-ordered replacement grit has been redirected to the Highways Agency, leaving the university unable to secure the safety of staff and students," a spokeswoman said. "We will do everything to reopen on Tuesday."



The Government has ordered salt from abroad but this is not due to arrive until January 21.



The Conservatives said the Government had failed to heed a warning from councils last year, but Transport Secretary Lord Adonis rejected the claim.



The snow has brought out some kind spirits, with builders who could not complete their own jobs volunteering to help a charity deliver meals on wheels in West Yorkshire.



Another group of construction workers in Wallasey, Merseyside used a digger to help the RSPCA rescue a flock of swans.



Meanwhile, coastguard teams across the south coast have moved inland to help ambulance crews due to the icy conditions.



They have used their four-wheel drive vehicles to get paramedics to the scene of emergencies and they have also been transporting patients.



The Met Office warned of heavy snow today in north east England, Yorkshire and Humber, East Midlands, eastern England and London and the South East.



It also issued a severe weather warning for the south east, saying: "Outbreaks of snow starting on Saturday afternoon will become heavy and persistent during the evening and last into Sunday morning.



"Seven to 12cm of fresh level snow are expected widely with 10 to 20cm locally. Drifting in the very strong winds will cause even greater accumulations in places."



Two more people died yesterday in weather-related incidents, taking the big freeze death toll since before Christmas to 24.



Two brothers rescued from a frozen lake in Watermead Country Park, Leicester, died in hospital.



In Norfolk, two girls stranded on marshland were rescued by police helicopter as one of them developed signs of hypothermia.



Officers were called shortly before 4pm yesterday by one of the girls, reportedly both 14, and she guided rescue teams to the correct spot on Morston Marshes near Blakeney.



Aisling Creevy, from MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "There was quite a bit of snow last night, most of it in south-east England and East Anglia.



"It looks like it is going to move westwards and there could be a few heavy bursts in Wales and the Midlands."



She said Scotland and northern England could have a dry day tomorrow, while showers of snow and sleet would hit much of the rest of the country.



"It looks like there might be some slightly warmer air coming in, possibly on Monday and Tuesday, but it will not make a significant difference and behind that is more colder weather," she added.

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