Images have emerged of coffins being buried in a mass grave in New York City, as the death toll from the coronavirus continues to rise.
Workers in hazmat outfits were seen stacking wooden coffins in deep trenches in Hart Island.
Officials say burials are being ramped up at site, which has long been used for people with no next-of-kin or families who cannot afford a funeral.
New York state now has more coronavirus cases than any single country.
The state’s confirmed caseload of Covid-19 is almost 162,000, of whom 7,067 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.ADVERTISEMENT
Spain has recorded about 157,000 cases and Italy 143,600, while China, where the virus emerged last year, has declared 82,000 cases.
The US as a whole has recorded 466,000 cases and nearly 16,700 deaths. Globally there are 1.6 million cases and 97,000 deaths.
The drone footage comes from Hart Island, off the Bronx in Long Island Sound, which has been used for more than 150 years by city officials as a mass burial site for those with no next-of-kin, or families who cannot afford funerals.
Normally, about 25 bodies a week are interred on the island, according to the Associated Press news agency.
But burial operations have increased from one day a week to five days a week, with around 24 burials each day, said Department of Correction spokesman Jason Kersten.
Prisoners from Rikers Island, the city’s main jail complex, usually do the job, but the rising workload has recently been taken over by contractors.
It is not clear how many of the dead have no next-of-kin or could not afford a funeral. However, the city has cut the amount of time it will hold unclaimed remains amid pressure on morgue space.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio indicated earlier this week that “temporary burials” might be necessary until the crisis had passed.
“Obviously the place we have used historically is Hart Island,” he said.
The daily tally of coronavirus deaths announced in New York state on Thursday was 799, a record high for a third day.
But Governor Andrew Cuomo took heart from the fact that the number of Covid-19 patients admitted to New York hospitals had dropped for a second day to 200.
He said it was a sign social distancing was working. He called the outbreak a “silent explosion that ripples through society with the same randomness, the same evil that we saw on 9/11”.
Another glimmer of hope was heralded on Thursday as official projections for the nationwide death toll were lowered.