By Vicente Gaibor del Pino and Yury Garcia
GUAYAQUIL, April 4 (Reuters). The Ecuadorian government has started storing coronavirus victims’ bodies in huge refrigerated containers, as hundreds of deaths in Guayaquil city, the center of the country’s outbreak, have already filled morgues and hospitals.
Ecuador has confirmed 318 deaths from the virus, one of the highest in Latin America. But President Lenin Moreno said the actual number was higher this week as authorities collected more than 100 bodies a day, many from relatives’ homes, because strict quarantine prevented them from being buried.
According to the Mayor of Guayaquil, Cynthia Viteri, the government has installed three containers in public hospitals, the largest of which is about 12 meters long to keep the bodies until the graves are prepared. So far 150 victims have been buried in a private cemetery in the port city.
At the Teodoro Maldonado Carbo Hospital in Guayaquil, medical workers in protective clothing removed corpses wrapped in plastic from a storage room on Saturday and rolled them into a container with a pallet, according to a Reuters photographer.
“This pandemic is overcoming the capacity of our hospital services,” the hospital said in a statement on Friday.
On Saturday, the Ecuadorian government announced that it would activate a new digital system that would allow families to find out where their dead relatives were buried.
Moreno said the government expected the total number of deaths in the surrounding Guayaquil province to reach 3,500 and said a “special camp” would be built to bury the dead. (Additional reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito; letter from Angus Berwick; editing by Daniel Wallis)