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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mass graves could be dug for autumn bout of swine flu

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 1:18 PM on 19th August 2009

The government is planning to create a series of mass graves to cope with a second outbreak of swine flu in the autumn.

A Home Office document warns that a mass burial site may be needed to cope with the potential crisis.

The proposals were discussed between government officials and council bosses last month, and will affect those areas where there may not be enough graves for victims of the illness.

Within weeks of a full-blown pandemic, the number of burials could more than double and inner city areas "may experience a shortage of grave space", according to the report.

The Framework for Planners Preparing to Manage Deaths discusses using "a grave that is for a number of unrelated persons, excavated mechanically in advance and designed for efficient preparation and use."

It said this approach would create a "burial site for multiple graves and consecutive burials" but added there must still be "marking of the position of individual burials".

It added that some cemeteries "may experience shortage of grave space, in particular in inner city areas".

Freight containers and " inflatable" storage units may be needed to provide extra mortuary space. But it stated that "refrigerated vehicles and trailers should not be used".

During the meeting, in which a senior official from Westminster council, gave a presentation, officials discussed the need for cemeteries and crematoriums to work seven days a week and the hiring of extra staff to cope.

The report also warned there may be a need for more "basic and shorter services at the chapel" or for "memorial services" to be held at a person's home instead.

Whitehall officials are also speaking to coffin makers to see if they could meet demands.

Retired doctors may also be called back to work to issue death certificates so GPs can focus on patients.

According to the document it may no longer be possible to bury some people in family plots and it may also become impossible to fly home the bodies of Britons who die abroad.

Meanwhile, NHS Blood and Transplant appealed to the public to give blood to avoid stocks being reduced over the autumn and winter as regular donors fall ill with swine flu. People cannot give blood when they have flu so it is important to keep the blood banks well stocked, it warned.