Death rates are set to soar “scandalously” this winter as a new Arctic blast batters Britain with temperatures on a par with Siberia.
Experts predict a dramatic increase in cold-related fatalities as we suffer the bitterest winter in a century, causing 12 deaths every hour.
Britons face spiralling energy bills while the death toll this winter could reach 35,000.
There are also fears some mail may not reach its destination by Christmas Day because of the freeze.
Forecasters said temperatures could plummet to record lows in the run-up to Christmas, putting tens of thousands of vulnerable people at risk.
Charities warned of pensioners suffering “Dickensian” conditions, resorting to riding on buses or huddling in shopping centres just to keep warm.
Millions of Britons are being forced to turn down their thermostats as gas and electricity prices spiral.
Jonathan Powell, senior forecaster with Positive Weather Solutions, said icy conditions were on the way back by the middle of next week after a brief weekend thaw. He said plummeting temperatures could even surpass the -27.2C (-17F) recorded in Braemar in 1982 – the coldest temperature in Britain.
Studies show a drop in temperature of just one degree is followed by 200 heart attacks. People aged between 75 and 84 and those with a history of heart disease appear to be most vulnerable.
Last year the number of deaths linked to the cold weather reached nearly 28,000 in four months, sparking claims that the UK has the highest winter death rate in northern Europe.
Neil Duncan-Jordan, of the National Pensioners Convention, said: “Rising bills and severe weather are going to put tremendous pressure on older people and we believe last year’s death rate of nine pensioners an hour could go up to 12 every single hour.
“It is a scandal that winter deaths are on the increase.”
Forecasters say bitterly cold winds are expected to return by the start of next week as bookmakers slash the odds for a white Christmas.
Jonathan Powell said the prolonged cold snap would leave Britain “the coldest country in the northern hemisphere” and “on a par with Siberia”. He said: “By next weekend, winds are turning northerly and there will be a true Arctic blast sweeping the country. Snow will fall as far as Bodmin in the South-west.
“The ice will cause substantial chaos through the festive period and bring the UK to a standstill.
“It will be a festive white-out with five to seven inches of snow in the east.”
The Arctic weather is causing Christmas post chaos, with delivery centres piling up with parcels and cards.
In Hull, people without post for 14 days claim Royal Mail told them they could not pick it up themselves because “their mail may not be there”.
- UK Rabbi Burns Bible on Twitter, but No “Hate Charges”
- Pharmaceutical giant planned to destroy stocks of cancer drugs to force price hike
- Nigel Farage blasts EU, calls it MAFIA & GANGSTERS
- EU Chief Juncker Demands UK punishment for Brexit
- UK Entry Denied after Ethiopian ‘Child Migrants’ Confess to Real Ages