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Participants stand in the waters of the North Sea during the annual New Year's plunge event in Ostend, Belgium, January 6, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

(reuters_tickers)

OSTEND, Belgium (Reuters) - Thousands of people braved the biting cold of a Belgian winter on Saturday to take a dip in the North Sea in Ostend's traditional New Year's plunge.

Undeterred by air temperatures of 6 degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit) and equally chilly water, 4,500 people, many clad in fancy dress, ran down the beach in front of the city's neoclassical Royal Galleries.

While some did little more than wet their ankles, others took advantage of the presence of many lifeguards to take a proper dive into the chilly waves.

"When you go in, it's cold but once you are in longer, it's very good, very nice," said Joris, wearing a caveman outfit.

Organisers said the 27th edition of the New Year's plunge was average in terms of temperature and attendance, following an exceptionally cold 2017 edition when brisk winds pushed temperatures well below freezing.

"It's our fifth year now. We had to skip last year because it was on New Year's day and we would have been a little drunk from the day before," said Jordy Velders from the Flemish town of Lokeren, who, like his friends, was dressed up as a penguin.

(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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Reuters