Military called out as spring snow blankets Britain

LONDON (AFP) - Britain's military was called into action on Tuesday to airdrop fodder to farms cut off by freak spring snow as thousands of homes remained without power for a fifth straight day.

A Royal Air Force (RAF) helicopter was deployed in Northern Ireland in a bid to reach remote farms where estimates suggest up to 10,000 animals have been buried beneath snowdrifts 20 feet (six metres) high.

And in southwest Scotland, the Isle of Arran was still without power following Friday's unseasonal snowfall that brought down power lines.

British media have dubbed the month as "Miserable March" and bookmakers used to offering bets on a White Christmas now say a White Easter this weekend is more likely than not.

An RAF Chinook was to be used to reach farms and families cut off by the huge snowdrifts in Northern Ireland, airlifting fodder to the Glens of Antrim by the north coast.

Thousands of cattle and sheep are already feared to have died in the cold at the height of the lambing season.

The bad weather has claimed at least two lives on the British mainland.

Around 3,300 customers on the Isle of Arran and in neighbouring Kintyre and Argyll were without power overnight.

"Instances of significant damage to the electricity network infrastructure have been among the worst seen for 30 years, with the weight of line icing pressurising the transmission lines," said a spokesman for Scottish and Southern Energy.

Consumer groups warned that energy bills could rise again as a result of the freezing weather.

Ladbrokes has suspended betting on this year being the coldest Easter on record in Britain, with a White Easter - with snow falling in any major British city - at 4-6.

They are even offering 10-1 that ice on the River Thames will disrupt Sunday's annual university boat race in London, although the capital has so far escaped ice and snow.

The temperature in London was still below freezing at 11.00am on Tuesday.

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