WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Dozens of decomposing bodies have been found stored in refrigerated trucks outside a New York funeral home.
Police made the discovery after they went to the Brooklyn funeral home on Wednesday (local time), prompted by complaints from neighbours about a bad smell.
They found the home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 bodies.
The New York Times said it appeared the funeral home’s freezer had stopped working and staff – overwhelmed by their workload due to the devastating coronavirus pandemic – had used the trucks to store bodies.
The bodies were reportedly found stacked on top of each other in the U-Haul trucks parked outside the funeral home.
Police said they were not treating the discovery of a yet-to-be-confirmed number of bodies as suspicious.
The state health department is investigating. In a statement, it said funeral directors were required to store bodies in “appropriate condition” and follow infection and prevention precautions.
“The department has been notified of storage issues of decedents and alternate arrangements are being made by the funeral home,” the statement read.
Workers in protective gear were later seen transferring bodies into a larger refrigerated truck.
Funeral homes, nursing homes and hospitals in New York City, and the state, have been overwhelmed by thousands of deaths due to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s unclear how many bodies from the Brooklyn discovery were of coronavirus victims, the NY Times said.
At the height of the COVID-19 crisis, the city’s morgues and crematories had backlogs of up to a fortnight. Funeral directors also faced staff shortages because of social distancing requirements and illness.
When deaths peaked in early April, one Brooklyn funeral director told the Associated Press his home was handling on average three times the volume of remains daily as it would typically pre-pandemic.