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Belfast puts extra graves at the ready should swine flu pandemic worsen

Thousands of extra graves could be brought into service across Belfast if the swine flu pandemic should worsen, it has been revealed.

Up to 10,000 burial plots are currently being held in reserve at Roselawn Cemetery after the land was purchased by Belfast City Council for its future grave provision. Currently there is unused space for around 4,000 burials in and around Belfast.

But the extra tract of land at Roselawn could be brought forward for the burial of thousands of corpses in the event that swine flu sweeps across the province.

Belfast city councillor Bob Stoker said disaster plans were already in place even before the swine flu scare.

“The council have for a number of years developed disaster plans for all contingencies, whether aeroplanes fall on the city or there are outbreaks of a disease,” he said. “It’s a disaster emergency plan that cover all eventualities.”

The current burial rate for Belfast’s cemeteries is around 800 people a year. But recent worst-case scenarios have given projected figures as high as 65,000 deaths across the UK as a result of swine flu.

The council is part of a co-ordinated plan which also encompasses the police, fire service and health authorities, all of whom are tasked with keeping basic services operational in case of a disaster.

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“We can provide leisure centres if it came to that, as well as the bodies on the ground,” said Mr Stoker.

“If it happens, obviously we expect a lot of our workers to be out with swine flu as well. It’s about keeping the basic services running, waste collections and things like that.“

The total number of swine flu cases in Northern Ireland has reached 58 but there have been no related deaths, the Department of Health has confirmed.

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