Bodies left in streets as COVID-19 overwhelms Guayaquil, Ecuador

April 2 (UPI) — The climbing death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, has left morgues overwhelmed, causing some bodies to be wrapped in plastic and left lying in the streets.

Other bodies lie unclaimed in the city’s hospitals and clinics as deaths outpace the city’s ability to bury COVID-19 victims.

“They’re leaving them in the villages, they fall in front of hospitals,” Mayor Cynthia Viteri said in a video message last week. “No one wants to recover them.”

Viteri, herself, is in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19.

Pedro Zavala, a paramedic from Machala, told the Miami Herald that he’s twice had to transport ventilators to Guayaquil.

“Hospitals are running out of everything,” he said. “People are looking for oxygen tanks, respirators, ventilators, masks, anything.”

Ecuador had at least 3,100 confirmed cases and 120 deaths as of Thursday afternoon, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. That’s more than every other South American country other than Brazil and Chile.

But Guayaquil officials say they’ve collected at least 400 bodies in recent days.

“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,” Juan Carlos Freire, an attorney, told the Los Angeles Times.

Viteri said the city was recovering the unclaimed bodies in refrigerated cargo containers as officials work to plan a new cemetery for the dead.

Hector Galarza, a publicist, told the Times that many of the bodies lying in the streets are the indigent.

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