BETHEL, Alaska — The Alaska village of Kongiganak’s cemetery has begun to sink as the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta’s permafrost thaws.
Some villages in the area have stopped burying their dead because digging graves in the soggy ground makes the problem worse, KYUK-FM reported (http://bit.ly/2xWGI7s ).
Instead, villages like Kongiganak have begun putting loved ones to rest in boxes above ground. This has helped stop the swamp from expanding, Tribal Administrator Roland Andrew said. But a row of white grave boxes from about a decade ago are teetering at odd angles, sliding feet-first into the lake, he said.
The village is trying to move the sunken graves to higher ground, but doesn’t have the money yet, Andrew said.
Kongiganak resident Betty Phillip said she has to wear rubber boots that reach above her knees to visit loved ones.
The graveyard in the neighboring village of Kwigillingok is also sinking into swampland. Andrew said Kongiganak began putting loved ones to rest above ground after consulting with neighboring village elders.
The thawing permafrost is also eroding the shoreline — and the village itself is sinking, Andrew said, as the hill Kongiganak resides on is slowly slipping down to sea level.
Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org