First hearse arrives at Spain's ice-rink morgue

The spanish ice rink has been set up as a temporary mortuary.
The spanish ice rink has been set up as a temporary mortuary. Photo credit: Getty

The first hearse has arrived at Madrid's ice rink, which was hastily transformed into a makeshift mortuary as Spanish authorities scrambled to deal with a rising death toll from the coronavirus pandemic.

Spain is Europe's second-worst hit country after Italy, with 2696 deaths and nearly 40,000 confirmed cases after 6600 cases and more than 500 deaths were reported overnight, the sharpest daily increase since the start of the crisis.

About 14 per cent of infections are among health workers.

Authorities said on Monday facilities could not cope and agreed to transform the Palacio de Hielo mall, home to an Olympic-sized ice rink, into a morgue.

Footage from Reuters TV showed vehicles at the building cordoned off by police officers in masks.

The military disinfected 179 nursing homes on Monday and plan to clean another 96 on Tuesday, officials said.

Members of the Military Emergency Unit take vans of deceased people for cold storage to the Palacio de Hielo ice rink.
Members of the Military Emergency Unit take vans of deceased people for cold storage to the Palacio de Hielo ice rink. Photo credit: Getty

The state prosecutor has opened an investigation after Defence Minister Margarita Robles said the army had found unattended bodies at nursing homes. She did not say what had caused their deaths.

In the southern region of Andalusia, the mayor of a small town pleaded for help after reporting 38 of 42 residents at the local nursing home had tested positive for the virus, along with 60 per cent of staff.

"The virus doesn't kill people ... what's killing people is the system," Rafael Aguilera, mayor of Alcala del Valle told a news conference.

"Our seniors need a permanent solution now. We need oxygen, ambulances and hospitals," he said in a video posted on the town's Facebook page. "A person died in our arms because we couldn't get hold of oxygen."

While Madrid long accounted for about half of Spain's coronavirus cases, data published on Tuesday showed it now had just less than one-third of the total, in a sign the epidemic is spreading throughout the country.

Spanish airport operator Aena said it would close most terminals at Madrid and Barcelona's main airports as air traffic plummeted due to travel restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the virus.

Reuters

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