Flooding makes burials 'impossible' in worst hit areas

Flood crisis has caused further anguish for bereaved families
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Flooding caused by recent bouts of severe weather have made burying loved ones "impossible" for families in some of the worst hit areas.

Burials are now becoming difficult because grounds are too saturated with water and conditions are proving dangerous for grave diggers.

This is an issue exacerbated by mortuaries being unable to store bodies for long periods of time, the chief executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematory Management has warned.

Tim Morris said it is "absolutely terrible for people", adding that he has never known cemeteries to be this affected by the weather.

"As soon as you start to dig, the graves fill with water, and of course that's not only difficult for funerals, it's also quite dangerous for the gravediggers to dig down six or seven feet with water coming in and potentially the sides of the excavation collapsing," he said.

Mr Morris said there is "very little the burial authorities can do until the water subsides".

"You can imagine it's impossible to excavate a grave for a funeral where parts of the cemetery are under two feet of water."

He said as soon as the surface water is gone, authorities will do everything they can to ensure that affected cemeteries are operational again.

Randalls Park Crematorium in Leatherhead, Surrey, flooded on Christmas Eve and had to close.

A spokesman said it is expected to reopen at the end of this month.

The River Mole runs through the grounds of the crematorium and the spokesman said that in 25 years there had never been a flood.

He said it had caused "substantial damage", and people were being advised that they could go to Surrey and Sussex Crematorium instead while repairs take place.

"Most families took up that option," he said.

Natasha Bradshaw, manager at Mortlake Crematorium, in west London, said the crematorium where she works was unaffected despite being next to the river, but having worked in cemeteries before she expressed sympathy for people working in them at this time.

Ms Bradshaw said she had been told about a cemetery in Cornwall where water was "all over the headstones", and said these conditions would prevent anyone from preparing a grave.

She added: "I would just know, having worked in cemeteries before, that I'd be a bit worried, because you'd be worried about the ground conditions, so you're worried about the safety of your staff.

"And you're worried about the ground, so when people turn up... if you imagine going on with a digger as well, the grass is all going to get turned up, so it can just look really messy too, so it's just horrible for families.

A spokeswoman for the National Association of Funeral Directors said there were isolated incidents rather than a nationwide issue.

Additional reporting by Press Association