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Tuesday, 19 September, 2000, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Cold weather kills thousands
Mary Croft
Mary Croft is one of thousands of pensioners facing a cold winter
More elderly people die from the cold in London than anywhere else in Europe, according to a study.

Research carried out by the London University shows that elderly people living in the British capital are more likely to die from the effects of cold than those living in the coldest parts of Scandinavia.

Their study suggests that 26,596 people die from the effects of cold weather in London every year.

This compares to just over 2,000 people in Finland, where winter temperatures are twice as cold.

The average winter temperature in London is five degrees compared with minus five degrees in Finland.

It is a complete scandal and it is the product of years and years of neglect

Nick Raynsford, Minister for London

The researchers suggest that death rates among old people could be reduced if there were improved measures to help old people protect themselves during the winter months.

Poor housing

Paula Jones from Age Concern, said the problem was caused by poor housing.

"The main reason is that we have not invested over the years in good, well-insulated housing and now the poorest older people are living in the poorest housing which is badly insulated, hard and expensive to heat."

Nick Raynsford, Minister for London, told the BBC that the death rates were scandalous.

Paula Jones
Paule Jones: The problem is poor housing
"Yes it is a complete scandal and it is the product of years and years of neglect.

"That is exactly why the government is acting to tackle these problems.

"We accept entirely there is an acute problem and we want to sort it out."

He said the government was giving extra money to poorer pensioners to help them to heat their homes over winter and was also carrying out a modernisation programme to improve existing homes.

He added that changes to building regulations would ensure future homes were more energy efficient and were easier to heat.

Nevertheless, thousands of elderly people will spend the winter at home without heating. Many will die.

Pensioner Mary Croft is one of those facing months in the cold.

Mrs Croft has been told that her gas central heating is unsafe and shouldn't be used. However, she does not want to move out so that the local council can fix the problem.

She suggests that she may die from the effects of cold weather.

"Probably it will happen to me too. I do feel the cold very much," she told the BBC.

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