New laws would also pave the way for “streamlined” mass cremations
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The British government has drawn up plans to create mass graves to deal with deaths resulting from the promised swine flu outbreak this Autumn.
A newly drafted Home Office document, entitled The Framework for Planners Preparing to Manage Deaths, states that mass burial sites may be required to cope with the pandemic.
The 59-page document originates from a meeting of government officials and council leaders held last month to discuss emergency procedures in the event of a “second wave” of H1N1 flu.
It states that the number of burials could more than double within a few weeks of a full-blown pandemic and suggests that cemeteries “may experience shortage of grave space, in particular in inner city areas”.
“As a back-up option for higher fatality rates, cemetery managers should plan alternative ways of providing graves,” the document says.
A potential solution, “which can allow interments to be undertaken more quickly”,
according to the document, would be “a grave that is for a number of unrelated persons, excavated mechanically in advance and designed for efficient preparation and use.”
Local government officials should consider the preparation of a “burial site for multiple graves and consecutive burials”, the paper comments, adding a stipulation that “marking of the position of individual burials” must be carried out. The report also notes that such procedures “could not normally allow for the adjacent burial of family members.”
The discovery of the published document was highlighted in reports from the Daily Mail , The Press Association , The London Metro  and The Sun , which carry a scan of plans to increase mortuary capacity (below).
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Elsewhere within the document are proposals to store and transport vast numbers of dead bodies.
The paper suggests that “inflatable storage structures”, which “come in various designs and can be customised and deployed to a range of terrains”, could be used as temporary mortuaries. Shipping containers are also cited as a possibility, although the document notes “These are likely to require shrouding, body racking and power generators.” The paper also concludes that “refrigerated vehicles and trailers should not be used”.
The report also carries advice on funerals, stating that “Those arranging and conducting funerals should prepare for basic and shorter services at the chapel, or for memorial services to be held at other venues (eg the home or place of worship).”
The document suggests cemeteries and crematoriums should liaise with local officials to “move to 24/7 working” and hire more staff, and that retired doctors should be called back to work to issue death certificates.
It also suggests that new laws could be passed to allow “streamlined” mass cremations with furnaces burning 24 hours a day.
These would be used In central London due to a lack of space in its three outlying cemeteries.
John Barradell, Westminster’s deputy chief executive, said the council had to plan for the worst, adding: “We have a flu pandemic plan in place which has been rigorously tested.”
So far, 44 people in England have been confirmed as dying after contracting swine flu and another five have died in Scotland.
While medical professionals have predicted a fresh surge in H1N1 this Autumn, new cases of the virus have fallen sharply from a peak of over 110,000 a week in late July.