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Coronavirus: US fatalities pass 10,000, NY morgues struggle to cope

NEW YORK : Refrigerator trucks parked outside hospitals, overwhelmed undertakers, and talk of temporary burials in parks: America's coronavirus epicentre of New York is grappling with how to deal with the dead.

As the Big Apple's death toll from Covid-19 soared to 3,485 on Monday, the sight of bodies covered in sheets being transported on stretchers by health workers in protective suits outside hospitals is common.

The trucks store bodies that are accumulating too quickly for funeral directors to pick them up directly from hospitals.

On Monday morning, AFP saw nine bodies loaded into trucks outside Wyckoff Hospital in Brooklyn.

Several undertakers interviewed by AFP said they were struggling to deal with New York state's coronavirus death toll of more than 500 a day.

Between Friday and Saturday, a high of 630 deaths were recorded.

"The majority of funeral homes do not have refrigeration or (have) limited refrigeration," said Mr Ken Brewster, owner of Crowe's Funeral Homes in Queens. "If you don't have the space... you need those trucks," added Mr Brewster, whose small business has been bombarded with requests for funeral services for Covid-19 patients over the past week.

Undertakers are so overcrowded that on Monday a city official raised the possibility of carrying out temporary burials in a public park.

"Trenches will be dug for 10 caskets in a line. It will be done in a dignified, orderly and temporary manner. But it will be tough for NYers to take," tweeted Mark Levine, a Manhattan council representative.

The US entered what an official called the "peak death week" of the coronavirus outbreak on Monday with a watchdog report saying hospitals were struggling to maintain and expand capacity to care for infected patients.

The US death toll, which topped 10,000 on Monday, was rapidly closing in on Italy and Spain, the countries with the most fatalities to date at nearly 16,000 and around 12,500 respectively, according to a Reuters tally of official data.

The US, which has by far the most number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, recently recorded 1,150 deaths over 24 hours, Johns Hopkins University said. - AFP, REUTERS

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