Climate change having an adverse impact on the vast frozen wastelands of Siberia is nothing new. Earlier this summer we brought you a story about how thawing permafrost accidentally released deadly anthrax into the environment from a formerly frozen deer carcass. Now, as temperatures continue to sit at unusually warm levels, concerns are being raised about the potential outbreak of smallpox in a small Siberian town inside the Arctic Circle…
Earlier this week, researchers were dispatched to the small town of Salekhard to investigate claims of soil erosion caused by melting permafrost at the local graveyard. Apparently, the erosion was so bad in some places that graves were opening and exposing the dead bodies inside.
While this is creepy enough on its own, these opening graves now pose a huge risk to locals. You see, back in the 1890s, an outbreak of smallpox nearly wiped out the town. Now, the thawing graves and bodies threaten to unleash the deadly disease once again.
During the original outbreak, the surviving residents of Salekhard were not able to bury the bodies of their families very deep because of the permafrost. It’s estimated that the smallpox outbreak killed about 40 percent of the town.