Ecuador: Families forced to keep bodies in their homes for days as morgues are overwhelmed

The public health system has been overwhelmed in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador. With morgues unable to pick up bodies, some have been forced to leave the bodies of their deceased relatives to decompose in their own homes.

A bus driver from Guayaquil – Ecuador’s most populous city – was told by his landlady that there was a bad smell coming from one of the apartments. With the other tenants, he knocked down the door and found a dead body. “Due the state of decomposition, a few days must have passed … no one has returned to that house. Not even the relatives of the deceased man,” the driver – who wishes to remain anonymous – says…

Tatiana Bertolucci, regional director of the international NGO Care, tells The Independent at least 100 bodies have been collected by police in the last week, with activists on the ground telling her it could be as many as 300. Bertolucci says the region’s “health systems are collapsed” and there are not enough resources to collect the dead, or even enough coffins. “People are scared that having the bodies inside of the houses could contaminate them … Guayaquil is a hot city so you might imagine what that means for decomposition and the seriousness of it.”

The city has begun giving out cardboard coffins for people to bury the dead, but the system is so overwhelmed that some have simply left the bodies, often wrapped in plastic to reduce the smell, in the streets.

Lenny Quiroz, national secretary of the National Union of Domestic Workers, knows of “many, many cases” of bodies being left for days in houses and on the streets. “I know a case of someone very close. They had him for five days at home, and since we live in a condominium, people already wanted to take him out on the street due to the fear and smell that flowed from him.” Quiroz says she knows of other instances where bodies have been left for up to eight days. “It is a nightmare from which we do not finish waking up.”…

A retired man living in the city, who wishes to remain anonymous, says people have begun burning tyres to alert authorities to dumped bodies. One instance happened a block away from his house. After the incident, with strict curfews in place in the area, he says he was told “that army soldiers shot rubber bullets at people from Ciudad de Dios, because they were on the street”.

The tweet below shows hundreds of bodies in the street. It reads, “In this video from Guayaquil, Ecuador, we can count up to 220 dead, taking into account that the official death toll is 315. You can imagine the magnitude of the tragedy and the falsity of all official data.”

This clip shows a cemetery in Guayaquil which is packed with people trying to bury the dead:

Some people were even dumping bodies in the sea:

Today, there are reports that police have picked up nearly 800 bodies over the past three weeks.

“The number we have collected with the task force from people’s homes exceeded 700 people,” said Jorge Wated, who leads a team of police and military personnel created by the government to help with the chaos unleashed by COVID-19.

He later said Sunday on Twitter that the joint task force, in operation for the past three weeks, had retrieved 771 bodies from homes and another 631 from hospitals, whose morgues are full.

This BBC report was published today:

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