PENSIONERS in Rosyth could die from the big freeze � unless they get more help from their neighbours.

Councillor Pat Callaghan said the "unforgiving" cold of the worst winter he had ever witnessed could cause fatalities among the elderly and vulnerable.

He has thanked 16 local families enlisted to be "nosy neighbours" but is calling for more help.

He said, "It is not being sensationalist or unreasonable to assume that there will be consequences � long-lasting and fatal � of this unforgiving weather we have at present.

"But we can mitigate these if enough of us get it right now.

"We now need to look at a new strategy for this unprecedented set of circumstances which will have to involve the wider community.

"Once we get through this nightmare we will have a political post-mortem and get things set in stone for the future.

"But right now we need to involve much, much more of the community in the very essential safeguarding of our most at risk and vulnerable.

"In short, I need more than 16 families watching out for their neighbourhood and communities." Mr Callaghan has contacted all major retail outlets in Rosyth who have agreed to contact him if there were "indications of vulnerability" among any customers.

He also said there was no reasonably safe footpaths in Rosyth and that ground ice in some places was nine inches thick.

Daytime temperatures for West Fife will remain at or below freezing until Hogmany, with nights being even colder.

The UK has one of the highest number of excess winter deaths (EWDs) in northern Europe � the difference between the number of deaths in the winter months and the average number of deaths in autumn and summer.

According to Age UK (formerly Help the Aged and Age Concern), more than 30,000 older people die every year from preventable causes over the winter months.

Michelle Mitchell, Age UK charity director, said, "The simple fact that the UK has one of the highest winter mortality rates in Europe � higher than even Sweden or Finland � makes it clear this is very much a home-grown problem.

"Behind these shocking statistics lie deep-seated social issues, such as 3.5 million older people in fuel poverty � a figure that could rise even further under the combined pressure of soaring energy bills and plummeting temperatures." For every additional winter death, there are an estimated eight admissions to hospital, 32 attendances at outpatient care and 30 social service calls.

Mr Callaghan called for Rosyth-based Press readers to contact him if they can help.

He finished, "I'm worried that the situation is growing worse for our elderly and vulnerable." If you can help, call Pat on 729735 or 07776262824 or by email: