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Floyd Flooding Raises Coffins

September 22, 1999 GMT

GOLDSBORO, N.C. (AP) _ Flooding from Hurricane Floyd has raised coffins in several cemeteries in eastern North Carolina, floating them along roads submerged from overflowing rivers.

``Imagine trying to hold a balloon underwater,″ Joseph Sawyer, a Goldsboro official, said Tuesday. ``It’s the same concept. You have airtight vaults, some of them that aren’t at all underground. You get enough water, and they’re going to come bobbing up.″

At Goldsboro’s Elmwood Cemetery, just two miles from the Neuse River, boats had to tow several coffins from the 14-foot-deep storm-made lake. All the caskets were removed and will be kept refrigerated until they can be buried.

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State health director Dr. Dennis McBride said unearthed coffins and embalmed bodies pose no health risk. State and local officials will identify the bodies and rebury them according to family members’ wishes, he said.

At Duplin County’s Felder Road Baptist Church, the high water eroded the ground around two caskets, yanking them from the soil. Neighbors saw the caskets floating in the road and called pastor Franklin Durran.

Although family members were upset, Durran said they could wait until the flooding subsides to have the bodies reburied.

``With all respect to the dead, we living folks have a lot to deal with right now,″ he said.