Harvey deaths, other fatalities push morgue to near capacity

HOUSTON (AP) — Bodies are piling up at the Houston morgue because of Harvey: Not only did the storm lead to more than 30 deaths, but the widespread flooding has also prevented funeral homes from collecting the corpses of those who died from other causes.

The morgue in the fourth-largest city in the U.S. is near capacity, prompting officials to ask for a refrigerated tractor-trailer to handle any overflow. The bodies — storm-related or not — have accumulated over the past several days as Harvey's floodwaters swallowed the city, essentially closing down all businesses, including funeral homes.

Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences spokeswoman Tricia Bentley said Thursday the morgue has 175 bodies. Capacity is 200.

"Our agency has proactively requested assistance from the state to provide extra storage capacity as ongoing search and recovery efforts continue over the next several weeks," she said.

More than half of the Harvey deaths have been in Harris County and the agency is investigating 10 others that could potentially be blamed on the storm.

In Houston, the owners of a small funeral home said they hunkered down for days. Pam Hardin of Hardin Family Funeral Home said her funeral home didn't receive any requests to pick up bodies, but there was no way they could have done it anyway because of the dangerous roads.

"It's treacherous and there's no point in it right now," she said.