SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia – The coronavirus pandemic has put a huge strain on morgues with some struggling to keep up with the increased demand on their services.
One mortuary in Santa Cruz, the worst-affected city in Bolivia, used to receive three bodies a week and now has 30 accumulated on the premises.
The morgue at Pampa de la Isla municipal hospital has run out of sufficient space to store the dead.
“It is fully saturated, we are also receiving people who die on the street or at home,” Carlos Faustino Tapia, 32, who has worked at the facility since he was a teenager, tells EFE.
“The work is hard,” he adds as he and a colleague place one of the bodies into a black plastic container.
They seal the bag tightly before attaching a piece of paper to the outside bearing the information of the deceased person.
Tapia says there is not enough space to deal with the increase in deaths and they have been forced to store some bodies on the ground.
The morgue has six chambers where the corpses should be stored.
There are also three spaces outside which do not have refrigeration but where bodies are placed in “an emergency,” he adds.
Corpses are held at the morgue for three or four days to give relatives time to claim the remains.
Any unclaimed bodies are buried in a mass grave at the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus cemetery, popularly known as La Cuchilla among locals.
The increase in deaths has meant morgue workers have also had to help bereaved families with finding a cemetery plot and making the funeral arrangements, especially for the less wealthy.
Santa Cruz, which is the largest city in Bolivia with more than 1.5 million inhabitants, has also been struggling with a general shortage of burial plots in its cemeteries due to the pandemic.
The region has seen more than 24,900 confirmed cases, around half of Bolivia’s total, and the highest number of deaths with 709.
There have been more than 48,100 infections and 1,800 fatalities across the country.