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Bodies pile up on streets in Ecuador as coronavirus spreads

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Caution: Some readers may find the details and images in this story disturbing.

The novel coronavirus has ravaged the coastal Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil, which has struggled to cope with the number of corpses as hospitals, morgues and funeral parlors have been overwhelmed. Some social media videos show unattended bodies lying on the street with nowhere else to go.

The outbreak in Ecuador has sickened at least 3,100 people, according to Johns Hopkins' latest data map. The epicenter in the country is in Guayaquil, where residents have criticized the government's response.

Wrapped coffins are stacked up on the back of a pickup truck and wait on the sidewalk outside a hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador. ENRIQUE ORTIZ/AFP via Getty Images

Because of the strict quarantine measures taken to restrict the spread of COVID-19, people have been limited in what they can do for loved ones or neighbors who die at home. Some, such as Guayaquil resident Stalin Briones, have been sharing disturbing photos or videos to get attention about what's going on. 

Briones tweeted about his neighbor's body — wrapped in a blanket and left outside on Sunday — pleading for someone to pick it up. He told CBS News on Thursday that eventually it was taken care of. While he said he doesn't feel like citizens are being ignored, he believes this is the consequence of the health care system collapsing. 

"All of this is a consequence of the bad direction that authorities took and not taking precautions nor being prepared for this despite knowing what was going on in Europe," he told CBS News in Spanish. "Adding the fact that people didn't worry — because more so than the government, the blame falls more so on people that didn't collaborate and took this as a regular cold." 

The city's mayor, Cynthia Viteri, announced in Twitter message Wednesday that three refrigerated trucks have been deployed to help store corpses.

She also blamed the federal government for not doing more.

"What is happening is with the public health system in his country?" she said in a recent video message. "They're not recovering bodies from homes. They're left in the sidewalks. They fall in front of hospitals. No one wants to recover them."

Ecuador's Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner told reporters earlier this week, "The government's intention is that everyone who passes away these days in Guayaquil, not just those who have died from COVID-19, can have a dignified burial."

According to the Los Angeles Times, municipal officials said 400 bodies have been recovered over the past few days. While majority of deaths are believed to be coronavirus-related, it has been difficult to confirm because of limited virus testing in the country.

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