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Mar 25, 2011

Singapore inventor to send 100 Eco-ffins

Dr Ng with the environmentally-friendly coffins that can be flat-packed, assembled in less than three minutes and burn more quickly than regular coffins, using less fuel. He hopes to help affected Japanese towns cope with a shortage of fuel for cremation and coffins. --ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

PLANS are under way for a Singaporean inventor to ship at least 100 of his environmentally-friendly coffins to Japan.

The lightweight Eco-ffins created by Dr Ng Khee Yang, 47, are made of cardboard, plywood and compressed wood dust. These materials burn more quickly than that of a regular coffin and as a result, use less fuel.

It is intended to help overcome the reported shortage of fuel for cremation and coffins in villages and small towns that have been overwhelmed by the thousands who died after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit north-east Japan on March 11.

Said Dr Ng, a director of the Centre for Applications in Environmental Technology at Singapore Polytechnic: 'I see it as a duty to use my product to meet just one of the many needs in Japan.'

Japan's death toll has exceeded 9,800 and about 17,500 people are missing.

Although the dead need to be removed from the open quickly to avoid the spread of waterborne diseases, returning volunteers from Singapore non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had indicated that relief efforts were focused on helping the living, he said.

The coffin can be shipped with its parts flat-packed and stacked on top of one another. It can be assembled in less than three minutes.

Dr Ng has raised about $16,000 from friends and family to pay for the manufacture of the coffins in Singapore, which he estimates would cost almost $20,000.

A logistics company, which declined to be identified, is shipping the Eco-ffins for free in a couple of weeks to NGOs in Japan, he said.

Dr Ng, who designed the Eco-ffin in 2009 with the help of two researchers, said the idea for shipping them came to him after he read news reports of the shortage of coffins and body bags in Japan.

Although 100 coffins may be few compared to the thousands of bodies, Dr Ng is hopeful that he will collect more funds over time: 'I hope to be able to send over as many as are needed. Nine thousand is a very big number.'