Two dead in British snow storms, London hit

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Britain's out-of-season cold snap swept into London for the first time Tuesday, with snow affecting flights in the capital and causing nationwide traffic chaos in which two people died.

The earliest widespread snowfall of a British winter since 1993 blanketed Scotland and northeast England at the weekend and the freezing weather has started moving down England's east coast.

London City Airport reported cancellations and severe delays, although Heathrow, Britain's busiest airport, said all flights were operating normally and Gatwick reported "minimal disruption."

Britain's Met Office issued severe weather warnings for most regions.

"Overnight, we've had some outbreaks of snow and a lot of the country has seen some snow showers with accumulations of 2.5 centimetres (one inch) in the southeast and east of England," forecaster Tom Morgan said.

On St Andrew's Day, Scotland's national day, the region recorded the coldest temperature in Britain overnight with the mercury dropping to minus 15 degrees Celsius (five degrees Fahrenheit).

Morgan warned that temperatures would remain "very cold" around Britain, between 1C (33.8F) to 2C (35.6F), with a strong north-easterly wind.

Traffic disruption was widespread.

A 53-year-old man was crushed to death when a recovery truck rolled into two other vehicles in snowy conditions on a motorway near Doncaster in northern England, police said.

In Lincolnshire in eastern England, a man died when when his car skidded off an icy road into a ditch, police said. Police and a local farmer also rescued around 60 stranded vehicles in the same area.

The snow eased in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have been hit by days of freezing conditions with hundreds of schools closed and a number of Scottish league football matches postponed.

Edinburgh Airport, Scotland's busiest air hub, reopened after closing overnight.

But both Luton and Stansted Airports near London and Southampton Airport on the south coast reported that some flights had been affected by the freezing conditions.

Protest leaders, meanwhile, said that thousands of students would defy the weather and turn out for the latest in a series of demonstrations in London and other cities against government plans to raise university tuition fees.

© 2010 AFP

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