News Feature | October 7, 2015

Raising The Dead: Flood Digs Up Southern Coffins

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Coffins are floating out of the ground as a result of flooding in South Carolina.

“As [the state] deals with deadly, 1,000-year flooding caused by Hurricane Joaquin this weekend, a strange, grim effect of the deluge is being felt throughout the area: coffins are surfacing and floating in the floodwaters,” Mashable reported.

Two coffins at the Samaria Missionary Baptist Church cemetery in Springfield floated out of the ground when the cemetery was flooded, according to WJBF. The coffins have since been covered up.

“With the heavy rainfall and floodwaters having completely saturated the soil at the coffins depth, the pressure from the water pushes the coffins through the surface where they can be swept away by flood waters,” Mashable explained.

Along with stirring up emotional distress, such circumstances pose a threat to waterways.

“The big problem with flooding in graveyards is that it spreads dangerous contamination, much of it from the carcinogenic formaldehyde with which most bodies are embalmed. In a culture in which families like to see their dead laid out for a wake, embalming is almost universal, but the chemicals with which it is done are highly toxic,” the Belfast Telegraph reported after similar problems arose overseas earlier this year.

Unfortunately, these circumstances are not unheard of during floods. In 1994, flooding in Georgia dug up hundreds of coffins and prompted new policies to ensure caskets are buried more securely, according to The Albany Herald:

By the time the flood waters of the Flint River and other nearby creeks and waterways receded, 438 caskets had washed up from Albany’s Oakview and Riverside cemeteries. Months of detailed forensics analysis led to the identification and reburial of all but 95 of the remains washed to the surface during the Flood of ‘94. Those 95 are buried now on the “hill of the unknowns,” numbers marking their final resting place as officials await some clue, some DNA evidence or some new technology that will allow them to finally return the unfortunate souls to rest.

The Samaria Missionary Baptist Church in South Carolina cancelled church services over the weekend as a result of the flooding. “Please continue pray for one another. Be safe and stay inside as much as possible. God bless you all,” the church announced on its Facebook page.

At least 11 people have lost their lives amid historic flooding and rains in South Carolina, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Historic rains diminished late Monday after dumping more than 20 inches of rain in three days in the central part of the state, according to the National Weather Service. But officials warned that treacherous conditions could persist for days after at least nine earthen dams broke, many bridges flooded and large sections of roadway collapsed. Neighborhoods near several lakes were evacuated late Monday,” the newspaper reported.

Similar stories can be found at Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.