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Bumper bodies can only burn in Bern

Lyssandra Sears · 19 Apr 2012, 10:49

Published: 19 Apr 2012 12:00 GMT+02:00
Updated: 19 Apr 2012 10:49 GMT+02:00

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Swiss crematoriums are increasingly facing the problem of what to do with overweight corpses – only Bern has the facility to deal with the obese deceased.

With the population gaining in girth, crematoriums are having to think about investing in new facilities to cope with the strain.

“We have repeatedly rejected requests for cremation,” an employee of the St. Gallen Crematorium told the online news site 20 Minuten.

Currently, all bodies over 130 kg must be sent to Bern, which is the only place in the country able to cope with such weights. But even Bern has its limits.

“We had to reject a 300 kilo corpse from the canton of Fribourg," Christian Gasser, director of the Bern Cooperative for Cremation, told the news site.

"We definitely feel that people are getting bigger and fatter,” he said.

Others in the profession are noticing the trend too. According to the Department of Health, nearly one in every two people is currently over the recommended weight.

More jumbo ovens are needed across the country, particularly if people continue on the current trend, Eliane Glauser from the Bern crematorium said.

Obese individuals were traditionally buried, but the number of burials overall has decreased.

Basel is planning a new crematorium in response to the expanding problem, with a large oven specifically to cope with the obese.

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“The bodies are not only heavier but also wider. In some cases, it would have been necessary to place the body on one shoulder in the coffin. But one simply can't do this for respect reasons,” Marc Lüthi, from Basel Crematorium, told the news site.

A couple of undertakers have squeezed larger bodies into normal coffins and tried to get away with it, Beni Meister, head of funeral operations in Basel, told 20 Minuten.

But a large body burns almost twice as long, and can cause damage to the system, Meister said. When there is not sufficient air in the oven, the coffin does not burn correctly. In addition, oversized bodies also smoulder in normal-sized ovens causing enormous wear and tear.

Lyssandra Sears (news@thelocal.ch)

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