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Hysterical crowd prevents cremation of SARS victim in Thailand
Wed Apr 09 2003 01:01:42 ET

Bangkok (dpa) - A hysterical crowd prevented the cremation of Thailand's second SARS victim in their neighbourhood for fear the virus would spread through the air, local newspapers reported Wednesday.

About Thai 100 protesters from communities surrounding a Buddhist temple where the cremation was to take place on Tuesday turned up to block the ceremony, newspaper reports said.

The villagers feared the SARS virus would spread in the air since the crematorium furnace would be opened every hour until the dead man's body was reduced to ashes.

Hong Kong-born Thai citizen Hiang Siang sae Lim, 78, died of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) last week in a hospital in his home town of Hat Yai, 650 kilometres south of the capital Bangkok.

He was reportedly Thailand's second SARS victim and had contracted the viral disease during a visit to severely stricken Hong Kong.

Senior medical staff of Prince of Songkhla Hospital reportedly rushed to the scene of the commotion and unsuccessfully tried to persuade the crowd that Lim's cremation would pose no danger whatsoever.

;I tried to tell them that the virus would automatically perish two to three hours after the infected person's death. Furthermore, the 1,000-degree Celsius crematorium fire also would eradicate the virus completely,'' Dr. Weerasak Jongsoowiwatwong, an epidemiologist, was quoted as saying.

When the protesters remained unconvinced Lim's body was returned to the hospital morgue, where it will remain for an indefinite period or until another location for cremation is found.

In recent weeks, Thailand's population has been increasingly gripped by anxiety and hysteria over the SARS outbreak in the region, although so far not a single patient who had contracted the disease locally could be confirmed.

All SARS cases, including the two deaths, were derived in high-risk countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and China.

The Thai government has advised the public to remain calm and not to overemphasize the impact of the virus-induced disease in Thailand, which has deployed a number of extremely stringent security and containment measures.


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