(NEW YORK POST) – Coronavirus-ravaged corpses have been rotting in the streets of the port city of Guayaquil in Ecuador — while others lay unclaimed in hospitals and clinics because morgues were filled to capacity, according to a report.
Municipal officials said that in the past few days, 400 bodies have been recovered in the city of 2.8 million people at the epicenter of the outbreak in the South American country, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But chilling images of strewn bodies and coffins waiting to be collected suggest the official toll of 93 deaths from COVID-19 in the country — 60 of them in Guayaquil — is likely far too low.
The country has confirmed that 2,700 people have been infected.
Although the majority of deaths were believed to be from the coronavirus, the exact number was not known amid reports of very little testing.
Guayaquil Mayor Cynthia Viteri, who said she has been infected herself, has insisted that the federal government should be responsible for collecting the bodies, according to the newspaper.
“They’re leaving them in the villages, they fall in front of hospitals,” she told residents in a recent Twitter video message. “No one wants to recover them.”
Former Mayor Juan Carlos Freire has announced that a “crisis committee” comprising business, government and academic leaders would be formed to tackle the “transport and burial of the huge quantity of cadavers accumulating in the clinics and hospitals attending the pandemic.”
“People are asking that some authority takes charge of the dead, but the lack of response means they are being left in central streets of Guayaquil,” Freire said, according to the LA Times.
Meanwhile, health officials said that up to 1,000 people descend on the city’s largest hospital, Los Ceibos, each day — and although many are false alarms, the sheer volume is pushing resources to the limit.
The national nurses association said five of its workers have died across the country and 370 others have been infected with the virus, according to the news outlet.
Viteri promised Tuesday that the unclaimed bodies would be placed in three refrigerated cargo containers as officials pursue plans for a new cemetery.
The city has denied local reports that the new cemetery will be a mass grave, saying in a news release that all would receive a “Christian burial.”
Despite her illness, Viteri said on Twitter that she would continue working as long as she can to “protect Guayaquilenos in a moment as difficult as this one.”
“I will be where I am and how I am,” she wrote. “Don’t leave your houses, protect the elderly and the weakest, and take care of each other.”