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Longyearbyen, Norway

This European town does not allow you to die

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Thursday, April 5, 2018, 12:59 PM - Longyearbyen, Norway is one of the world's northernmost inhabited areas.

The ground is also completely frozen, year-round. Average winter temperatures hover around -20 degrees Celsius, but have been known to plunge to -50 degrees Celsius.

The extreme climate has prompted local officials to impose some unorthodox rules to keep the small society of about 2,000 people going.

The ground is so cold that permafrost overtakes buried bodies, preventing them from decomposing.

SEE MORE: Norway spending millions to update doomsday vault

When a body remains in-tact, the viruses that killed a person can potentially survive. In order to prevent diseases from spreading, authorities banned the burial of dead people.

Authorities made the decision in the 1950s after they realized residents who died of the 1918 Spanish flu hadn't decomposed, raising the fear that the bodies contain live strains of a virus that wiped out 5 per cent of the world's population in the early 1900s. 

While some say it's illegal to die in Longyearbyen, that isn't actually the case. But if they do die in the town, their burial is strictly prohibited.

For the past seventy years, gravely ill inhabitants of Longyearbyen are shipped off to other parts of Norway for end-of-life care.

Strangely -- There are at least right other places where death has been banned spanning the globe, from Asia, to Europe to South America. In many of these places, a lack of proper burial space is what prompted the bans.

And in ancient Greece, death was banned on the Island of Delos in an attempt to purify the area for the Gods.


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