Body bags are loaded into 'mobile morgue' refrigerated trucks in NYC

Body bags are seen being loaded into dozens of refrigerated trucks serving as mobile morgues as workers in Hazmat suits bury rows of coffins in Hart Island mass grave after NYC confirmed 4,778 deaths

  • Harrowing new photographs show body bags being placed into refrigerated trucks that will serve as mobile morgues in New York City’s Randall’s Island on Thursday
  • Lines of tractor trailer trucks were seen parked outside Icahn Stadium on the island and loaded with bodies
  • On Thursday afternoon New York City hit 87,725 cases of the virus and 4,778 deaths 
  • Workers in hazmat suits were pictured in Hart Island digging mass graves on Thursday  
  • Prisoners from Rikers Island are usually brought in to dig graves on Hart Island but the Department of Corrections has now stopped those in custody from carrying out the work due to the coronavirus outbreak   
  • Until now, officials have remained tight-lipped on whether COVID victims were being buried on Hart Island
  • On Thursday, officials said they had no choice but to bury COVID-19 patients at the city’s cemetery as it deals with the mounting coronavirus death toll and dwindling morgue space  

Harrowing new photographs from New York City show body bags being placed into refrigerated trucks that will serve as mobile morgues and workers dressed in hazmat suits burying caskets in mass graves on Thursday as the city’s death toll hits 4,778.

The Big Apple’s coronavirus outbreak continues to stagger with 87,725 cases – a rise in 7,521 infections and 518 deaths from Wednesday.  

Devastating photographs show workers prepare dozens of refrigerated tractor trailers which will be used as morgues to hold the mounting number of dead bodies leaving New York hospitals amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The mobile morgues are a temporary solution to the rising number of coronavirus victims and lack of space in funeral homes and morgues across the city. 

Harrowing new photographs show rows of body bags being placed into refrigerated trucks that will serve as mobile morgues, meanwhile workers on New York’s Hart Island dressed in hazmat suits to bury caskets in mass graves on Thursday as the city’s death toll hits 4,778

Lines of trucks were seen outside Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island in New York City on Thursday afternoon

Hearses were parked next to the refrigerated tractor trailers for body transfers on Thursday on Randall’s Island. A brown body bag pictured being loaded onto the truck

Workers pictured preparing the refrigerated tractor trailers that will be used as morgues and have wooden shelves to hold caskets inside as the coronavirus pandemic continues to claim the lives of New Yorkers

The trucks are outfitted with shelves to hold rows of caskets and body bags to alleviate the burden in hospitals and morgues

Lines of trailers were seen outside Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island in New York City on Thursday afternoon.

A view inside the massive tractor trailers revealed wooden shelves that will hold stacks of caskets or body bags.

Workers were seen preparing the trailers and hearses were parked nearby for body transfers. 

Some body bags were seen taken out on stretchers and loaded into the massive trucks.  

Meanwhile, on  Hart Island the number of burials has quadrupled amid the pandemic. On Thursday dozens of contracted laborers were seen digging and burying the caskets, some of which had names carved on them.

The city has used Hart Island to bury New Yorkers with no known next of kin or whose family are unable to arrange a funeral since the 19th century. 

Typically, about 25 bodies are buried there once a week by low-paid Rikers Island jail inmates. That number began increasing last month as the new coronavirus spread rapidly and New York became the epicenter of the pandemic. 

They are now burying about two dozen bodies a day, five days a week, DailyMail.com has been told. 

Workers pictured after removing a body from a hearse and into the tractor trailer on Thursday 

Several hearses were seen parked outside Icahn Stadium awaiting body transfers into the mobile morgues on Thursday

Workers were seen with ladders outside the tractor trailer as they stacked bodies into the mobile morgues 

A worker pictured shutting a truck door following body transfers into the mobile morgues on Thursday

The tractor trailer trucks were parked outside Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island in New York City 

Scenes of the dead are unfolding across the Big Apple: In Brooklyn a pallbearer and medical staff placed the body of a deceased family member into a hearse at a funeral at Jurek-Park Slope Funeral Home during the coronavirus outbreak Thursday

Mourners attend a funeral at The Green-Wood Cemetery, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the Brooklyn on Thursday

Until now, officials have remained tight-lipped on whether coronavirus victims were being buried on Hart Island. 

On Thursday, officials said they had no choice but to bury COVID-19 patients at the city’s cemetery as it deals with the mounting coronavirus death toll and dwindling morgue space. 

Under a new policy, the medical examiner’s office will keep bodies in storage for just 14 days before they’re buried in the city’s potter’s field on Hart Island. 

City officials haven’t explained whether the increase in burials at Hart Island is due to pressure on mortuaries to dispose of bodies more quickly. 

Prisoners from Rikers Island are usually brought in to dig graves on Hart Island but the Department of Corrections has since hired contracted laborers to carry out the work due to the outbreak. 

‘For social distancing and safety reasons, city-sentenced people in custody are not assisting in burials for the duration of the pandemic,’ DOC Press Secretary Jason Kersten told DailyMail.com. ‘Contracted laborers are performing this important work under DOC supervision. 

Workers wearing hazmat suits and other protective gear were spotted burying caskets in a mass grave on New York’s Hart Island on Thursday amid speculation coronavirus victims are now being buried there 

About a dozen workers were seen digging and burying the caskets – some of which had names carved into them – on Thursday as at least one refrigerated truck was brought onto the island

Those dressed in hazmat suits had to use a ladder to get down into the mass grave on Thursday as the new caskets were buried. They were watched by a corrections officer (far right)

‘Burial operations at the city cemetery remain uninterrupted and they continue to be supervised by DOC, which has been performing this solemn duty on Hart Island for over 150 years and will continue to do so until the jurisdiction of Hart Island moves to Parks in 2021.’ 

For burial on the island, the dead are wrapped in body bags and placed inside pine caskets. The deceased’s name is scrawled in large letters on each casket, which helps if any body needs to be exhumed later. The caskets are buried in long narrow trenches excavated by digging machines. 

Earlier on Thursday, the department referred questions about causes of death to the city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. 

Aja Worthy-Davis, an OCME spokeswoman, said it would take time to collate individual causes of death from the office’s records, but that it was probable some of the recent burials include those felled by the coronavirus. 

The island may also be used as a site for temporary interments should deaths surge past the city’s morgue capacity – a point that has not yet been reached, according to the DOC and OCME. 

‘We’re all hoping it’s not coming to this,’ Kersten said. ‘At the same time, we’re prepared if it does.’

OCME can store about 800 to 900 bodies in its buildings and also has room to store about 4,000 bodies in some 40 refrigerated trucks it can dispatch around the city to hospitals that typically have only small morgues.  

Mayor Bill de Blasio has so far not confirmed whether burials for coronavirus victims had been or would take place there but indicated this week the city might resort to using the island for temporary burials during the pandemic. 

‘We may well be dealing with temporary burials so we can then deal with each family later,’ he said. 

‘Obviously the place we have used historically is Hart Island.’  

Those currently buried on Hart Island include people who haven’t been identified, unclaimed bodies and people whose families could not afford burial costs. 

In the past, the island has been used as a burial ground for victims of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and the thousands of people who died of AIDS in the 1980s.  

The first AIDS victims were buried away from other graves on the island in 1985 over fears they would infect the other bodies. 

The city’s 2008 Pandemic Influenza Surge Plan states that Hart Island would be used as a temporary burial site in the event the death toll reaches the tens of thousands and if other storage, such as the refrigerator trucks parked outside hospitals, are full.  

It comes after public officials sparked panic and disgust last week after claiming some of the dead would be temporarily buried in public parks across the city. 

‘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,’ Mark Levine, a Manhattan council representative, tweeted.

The comments caused a stir, prompting Levine to clarify his remarks, saying he understood any temporary burials would be carried out on Hart Island rather than public parks.  

‘I have spoken to many folks in City gov’t today, and received unequivocal assurance that there will be *no* burials in NYC Parks,’ he said. 

‘All have stated clearly that if temporary interment should be needed it will be done on Hart Island.’

While the suggestion of park burials has been dismissed, the question of what to do with the escalating body count remains pertinent.   

In video footage from 2017, above inmates are seen burying the dead in prison uniform rather than the hazmat suits they are now dressed it

About a dozen workers were seen digging the graves on Thursday as at least one refrigerated truck was brought onto New York City’s Hart Island

Prisoners from Rikers Island are usually brought over to dig graves on Hart Island. The DOC says it has stopped inmates from digging due to the ongoing pandemic

The refrigerated truck that was brought onto the island is the same as those currently parked outside hospitals across Manhattan as part of makeshift morgues set up to deal with the number of people dying from the coronavirus outbreak

Authorities have not officially confirmed if coronavirus patients are currently being buried on Hart Island despite morgues overflowing across the city and the death toll continuing to rise

The Mayor’s spokeswoman, Freddi Goldstein, has stressed that the city government was not considering using local parks as cemeteries.

But she added that Hart Island, where around one million New Yorkers are already buried in mass graves, may be used ‘for temporary burials, if the need grows’. 

Melinda Hunt, the founder of the Hart Island Project who produced the drone video footage, said it appeared to show burials of COVID-19 victims. 

She said the number of burials had increased and the process had become more systematic in recent weeks. 

A former Rikers Island inmate who spent five months working on the island until February this year has also told of the grim operation that goes on there. 

Vincent Mingalone said in a voiceover of the video that he worked as a team of around seven men who formed a supply chain to move the bodies from a truck to the mass grave every Thursday.  

The bodies were stacked three deep and then covered with sand and soil.

Mingalone said he is now worried about whether there will actually be enough inmates willing to do the job. 

When he was incarcerated, he said no one else volunteered to do the work because they viewed it as ‘ghoulish’ or ‘dirty’ and because it was low paid compared to other prison jobs. 

‘A lot of people didn’t want that job,’ he said. 

‘Now it’s going to be slim pickings because a lot of inmates have all been released because of this pandemic.’

About 1,000 inmates have been released from Rikers Island since the pandemic broke out.

The majority of those digging on Thursday were dressed in white, head-to-toe hazmat suits amid the coronavirus pandemic

Normally, about 25 bodies bodies are buried each Thursday on Hart Island. That number increased to 72 since the end of March when coronavirus fatalities increased drastically in the city, according to the Department of Corrections

Those currently buried on Hart Island include people who haven’t been identified, unclaimed bodies and people whose families could not afford burial costs

THE GRISLY HISTORY OF HART ISLAND: THE FINAL RESTING PLACE FOR OVER ONE MILLION BODIES

Hart Island, sometimes referred to as Hart’s Island, has a grisly history and started being used as a cemetery during the civil war in 1868 and there are now more than a million bodies buried there.

Since then it has been used as a women’s psychiatric institution, a tuberculosis sanatorium, a potter’s field burial site and storage for Cold War anti-aircraft missiles.

After its first use as a cemetery in 1868, the island started to be used as a potter’s field for unmarked graves and accounts from the time describe bodies piling up on the island after being transported from hospitals in the city.

By 1958, burials there exceeded 500,000 and it has been used to house the bodies of victims of the 1870 yellow fever epidemic and the 1919 Spanish Flu outbreak.

During the Spanish Flu, when more than 500,000 Americans died, thousands were buried at Hart Island as city burial sites were overwhelmed.

It is estimated they would be asked to remove between 50 and 5,000 victims a day during the epidemic.

In more recent times, thousands of unclaimed AIDs victims have been buried on the island. The first were buried in 1985 away from other graves, in the belief that AIDs could infect dead bodies.

In one 200-foot trench the remains of 8,904 babies were buried between 1988 and 1999.

The island in Long Island Sound has also been the site of a homeless shelter, a boys’ reformatory, a jail and a drug rehabilitation center. 

It returned to being used as a common grave in the 1980s and is still used to bury unknown or unclaimed people with bodies from across New York taken to the site twice a week and laid to rest by inmates at Rikers Island.

Due to a New York State law from the 1850s and last amended in 2007, a dead person’s next of kin on have 48 hours after death to claim a body for burial.

If the body is unclaimed it becomes legally available as a medical cadavar to be used for training at medical schools or mortuary classes. 

The island, which can only be accessed by ferryboat, was sold to the city in 1868 and became a final resting place for unclaimed bodies and those used by medical schools.

In the 19th century slave owners in the South ‘donated’ or sold bodies of dead slaves to medical schools.

New York is the coronavirus epicenter of the world with more infections than any other country outside the U.S. – and a third of global cases are now in America – as the state tops 159,000 cases 

New York state is now the coronavirus epicenter of the world with more infections than any other country outside of the United States. 

The number of confirmed cases in New York state increased to 159,937 on Thursday after the number of infections went up by 10,000 in 24 hours. 

In comparison, Spain has now recorded just over 152,000 cases and Italy’s infections increased to more than 142,000.     

China, which is where the coronavirus first broke out late last year, currently has nearly 83,000 infections. 

The United States has just over 465,000 cases and accounts for a third of the world’s total infections.  

In terms of fatalities, Italy’s death toll is the highest across with the globe with more than 18,000 cases. The US follows with 16,500 and then Spain with 15,300.  

New York state’s death toll as of Thursday was just over 7,000.  

 

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