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High-rise Hong Kong, notorious for its lack of living space, is so overcrowded that it is running out of space for the dead as its mortuaries fill to overflowing, officials said.

Bodies are being kept two in each compartment at some mortuaries in the city of 6.9 million because there is no space to store them, leading to blunders in which the wrong bodies have been cremated.

In the former British colony where most people live in cramped 65-square-metre flats, hospital officials on Monday announced a series of measures to ease the crush for the recently deceased.

More than 500 new mortuary storage places are to be built at public hospitals and a bar-coding system is to be introduced to safeguard corpses against mix-ups, the hospital authority said.

The authority's chief executive, Shane Solomon, said families in the densely populated territory who delayed the cremations of loved ones might also be charged for storage.

In March, a family who came to collect the body of an 88-year-old relative for cremation at Hong Kong's Prince of Wales Hospital found he had already been cremated by another unrelated family days earlier.

The body had been placed in the same compartment with that of a second elderly man, aged 77, on a busy day when there were 72 bodies in the mortuary, which only has 56 compartments.

The blunder followed a number of similar mix-ups and an uproar over the publication by a Chinese-language newspaper of a photograph of bodies piled up in a public mortuary in July 2005.

Hong Kong has a rapidly ageing population, and government estimates suggest that by 2033, one-third of its population will be over 64 years of age.


Does your city have similar problems as well? No more room for cemeteries?
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