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3 die in avalanches as cold snap hits Britain

Three people have died in avalanches in the Scottish Highlands and three more in a car crash as Britain ends 2009 with icy weather.
Ramblers enjoy a walk on the Derbyshire Hills near Mam Tor, Britain, on Thursday. Owen Humphreys / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Three people died in avalanches in the Scottish Highlands, and two others were rescued, as parts of Britain ended the year with a blast of snow and icy weather.

Forecasters said temperatures were predicted to fall below freezing in many areas for Thursday's New Year's Eve celebrations.

Emergency services said two climbers were killed on Britain's highest mountain — the 4,409-foot Ben Nevis — on Wednesday. A third was rescued at Torridon in another part of the Highlands but died later.

Two other climbers were rescued after a third avalanche on Beinn an Dothaidh mountain in the Highlands.

In northwest England, three men were killed when their car hit a highway barrier as snow swept across northern Britain.

Despite the cold, thousands were expected to gather along the banks of the River Thames, near the London Eye Ferris wheel, for the city's fireworks display.

About 80,000 were expected in Edinburgh for the Scottish capital's traditional Hogmanay celebrations.

But officials in the Scottish Highland city of Inverness canceled a planned street party because of heavy snow. Chief Inspector Andrew MacLean of Northern Constabulary said road conditions in and around the city were "extremely hazardous."

A large crowd had been expected to see performances by bands including The Red Hot Chilli Pipers and the Peatbog Fairies.

It is the second cold snap to hit Britain this month. Bad weather before Christmas led to canceled flights and the suspension of Eurostar train services between Britain and continental Europe.

In Poland, an avalanche killed two hikers and injured three others in the Tatra Mountains, officials said Wednesday.

The avalanche hit five people who were trekking at the foot of the Rysy mountain, some 8,200 feet high.