Formaldehyde in tsunami victims’ coffins makes Swedes sick

The formaldehyde used to embalm Swedish victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster last December is posing a health risk to people handling the caskets in Sweden, Swedish media reported on Wednesday.

“The coffins are excreting carcinogenic gases,” Lennart Hammerstedt, a workplace safety officer in the Stockholm suburb of Sollentuna told local paper Mitt i Sollentuna.

The large amounts of formaldehyde used in the embalming process have reportedly emitted cancer-causing fumes that have led to skin irritation and breathing problems for people handling the coffins in Sweden.

Following the discovery of the problem, Sollentuna has called for all city employees handling the coffins to wear face masks, Swedish news agency TT reported.

Five hundred and forty-four Swedes were killed or remain missing in the December 26 tsunami. As many as 20,000 Swedes were vacationing in the area around the Indian Ocean, mainly in Khao Lak in Thailand, at the time, and the number of the Scandinavian country’s nationals missing was initially feared to be as high as 3,500.

Sweden with its nine million inhabitants remains one of the countries outside of Asia with the highest per capita death toll in the catastrophe, which claimed an estimated 217,000 lives.



Swede dies in earthquake in Greece and Turkey

A Swedish man was one of the people killed when a violent earthquake hit Greek island Kos, Sweden's foreign ministry has confirmed.

Swede dies in earthquake in Greece and Turkey
Rubble sitting outside the bar damaged by an earthquake in Kos, Greece. Photo: Michael Probst/AP

A second person killed was named as Turkish national Sinan Kurdoglu by Turkey's deputy prime minister, according to news agency the Associated Press. The men died when the roof of a bar collapsed in Kos, The Guardian reports.

The 6.7 magnitude earthquake shook the Greek island and Turkish tourist resort Bodrum in the early hours of Friday. Greek officials said around 200 people were injured, at least 120 on Kos and 70 in Turkey. Sweden's foreign ministry has confirmed that Swedes are among the injured.

The epicentre of the earthquake, which struck at around 1.30am local time, was 10 kilometres south of Bodrum and 16 kilometres north-east of Kos which was the worst hit, reports The Guardian.

A toppled column in Kos after the earthquake. Photo: Michael Probst/AP

“I'm still in shock,” Isak Bergh from Västerås told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, explaining that paintings and mirrors fell from the walls of the hotel he was in and the power was lost.

Another reader described the scene at Rhodes airport.

“I laid on the floor and started to shake around,” Brian Ramirez explained.