A city council is considering using 19th century underground burial chambers to store the bodies of swine flu victims if the outbreak worsens, it was confirmed today.
Exeter City Council has identified the empty catacombs, currently used as a tourist attraction, as a potential mortuary.
A council spokesman said it could turn to the plan if the crematorium and cemeteries could not keep up with funeral demands.
He said: "We have some empty catacombs in an old cemetery in the city. These are 19th century underground burial chambers which are normally a tourist attraction.
"They can, however, be safely used for their original purpose and allow us to temporarily store bodies in the remote possibility that the need should arise."
Figures released last night revealed 72 people suffering swine flu were receiving hospital treatment in Devon and Cornwall and last week around 2,000 people in the region went to their doctors complaining of symptoms.
The World Health Organisation said 160 countries were now affected by swine flu, and around 800 people have died worldwide.
At least 30 have died in the UK after contracting the virus.