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The BBC's Valerie Jones reports
"The north of Britain has been suffering the worst"
 real 56k

Saturday, 30 December, 2000, 14:18 GMT
Big freeze hits holiday sport
A lone golfer at Ladybank Golf Club in Fife
More sporting fixtures could be cancelled on Saturday
The New Year's busy sporting calendar has fallen victim to the big freeze, with many top fixtures cancelled.

Some 40 football matches have been postponed in England and Scotland and more are expected to follow after pitch inspections on Saturday.

Rugby matches have also fallen victim to the cold weather, as have most racing meetings.

And forecasters are predicting more snow and freezing temperatures through the New Year period, as people celebrate the end of the year and begin to return to work.

Ashleigh Best with his dog Tara in Ballymena, County Antrim
But some people and animals have enjoyed the weather
The Premiership matches at Bradford, Everton, West Ham and Aston Villa have been postponed because of unsafe conditions both inside and outside the stadiums.

In Scotland, Celtic's home game with Motherwell, Rangers' trip to Kilmarnock and St Mirren's trip to Aberdeen, have been called off.

Rugby matches have also been badly affected. Saturday's Zurich Premiership game between London Irish and Rotherham at Reading FC's Madejski Stadium has been called off because of a frozen pitch.

And race meetings at Warwick, Cheltenham and Catterick have been cancelled.

Mercury plunging

The cold weather is expected to continue until New Year's Day, with party-goers facing a night of sleet, snow and freezing rain.

Overnight south-west England, west Wales and north-east Scotland were hit by snow showers.

Temperatures plummeted again, with Great Malvern in Worcs recording -11C and Manchester -8C.

We've been getting about 1,600 calls an hour as people set off to see friends and family for the New Year

RAC spokesman Peter Brill
Cumbria, north-east England and Scotland are currently facing the worst weather.

A 48-year-old motorist died on Friday when she stopped at the side of the road to clear her car windscreen.

A Vauxhall Astra driven by a 51-year-old man from Cannock in Staffordshire was in collision with the rear of the stationary car, causing it to roll forward and trap the woman under her vehicle.

The accident happened at 1520GMT, after the woman stopped her Citroen Xsara on the A460 Hednesford Road near Rugeley, Staffordshire.

Airport chaos

Police were called to disturbances among EasyJet passengers at Luton and Liverpool airports overnight.

Tempers boiled over as passengers were left stranded for hours when EasyJet services were cancelled because of a problem with de-icing aircraft.

The RAC said it was experiencing one of its busiest Christmas holiday periods ever, with more than 11,000 call-outs on Friday and even more expected on Saturday.

Spokesman Peter Brill said: "This is our third day in a row on red alert.

"We've been getting about 1,600 calls an hour as people set off to see friends and family for the New Year.

Hogmanay warning

"Most call-outs are for people who can't get their cars started rather than accidents, as was the case a few days ago.

The Meteorological Office has issued an early warning of blizzards and drifting snow on New Year's Eve.

To add to the misery there is a danger of flooding when the snow eventually thaws.

Partygoers in Edinburgh preparing for Hogmanay have been urged by police to protect themselves from the cold weather.

David Strang, assistant chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, asked people not to join the expected 100,000 revellers without a ticket, not to drink too much and to wear warm clothes and sturdy footwear.

About 70 postal workers at Liverpool's West Derby sorting office walked out on Friday, claiming weather conditions were too bad to deliver mail.

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See also:

30 Dec 00 | Scotland
Cold hits Scots blood supplies
29 Dec 00 | UK
Cold snap to last into 2001
30 Dec 00 | Scotland
Weather warning to revellers
29 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Icy conditions take hold
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