Huge Fleet of Army Trucks Seen Transporting Coffins for Coronavirus Victims in Italy
50 soldiers in 15 military vehicles transport dead Italians for cremation
A huge fleet of military trucks has been spotted transporting the bodies of Italians who have died from the coronavirus pandemic, in some of the saddest images to emerge from COVID-19-stricken Italy so far.
Army vehicles have been deployed to transport scores of victims' coffins to be cremated.
The images have come as Italy's hospitals and crematoriums struggle to cope with the numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths across the country.
Coronavirus patients have been seen laid out on hospital beds along the corridors of overcrowded Italian hospitals as health workers work around the clock to treat the sick.
On Wednesday, Italy recorded a record of 4,207 infections and 475 new deaths from the Chinese virus in one day, squashing hopes that the unprecedented national lockdown was beginning to slow the spread of the pathogen.
Italy is the worst-hit country out outside of China, with over 41,000 cases recorded so far and 3,400 deaths - surpassing the death toll in Hubei, China - where the coronavirus originated - which has 3,133 deaths.
The crisis is underlining how health services in northern Italy have been overwhelmed by the pandemic, with doctors describing hospitals in crisis and many medics working from makeshift tents.
The governor of Lombardy, the worst-affected region which includes Bergamo, said doctors and nurses in the region's hospitals were at their limits.
"I'm worried about the possibility they could succumb physically and psychologically because if they were to succumb, it would really be a disaster," cemetery director Angeloni told Italian radio.
In separate footage taken at the San Marco di Zingonia hospital in Bergamo, patients are seen lying on beds which are crammed into the corridor of the intensive care unit.
The video shows patients on ventilators in overcrowded rooms, showing how the crisis has overwhelmed even the high-quality health service in northern Italy.
Italian media says the hospital is handling a large number of urgent COVID-19 cases, and many patients are said to have serious breathing problems.
Meanwhile, coffins of the deceased were whisked away on a fleet of army trucks last night after a cemetery in northern Italy was overwhelmed by the death toll.
The column of army vehicles brought the dead out of Bergamo on Wednesday night in what Italians have called "one of the saddest photos in the history of our country."
The cemetery, like the hospital, in Bergamo can no longer cope with the mounting death toll in the city, where more than 4,300 people have been infected and at least 93 have died.
Mortuaries are full and crematorium staff have been handling 24 bodies a day, including the regular drumbeat of non-virus deaths, meaning the bodies of virus victims have had to be dispatched to neighboring provinces.
Prime minister Giuseppe Conte has now warned that quarantine measures "must be extended beyond their original deadline."
Some had initially been due to expire as early as next Wednesday.
An army spokesman confirmed today that 15 trucks and 50 soldiers had been deployed to move bodies to neighboring provinces.
Italian media said there were around 70 coffins in the grim procession as the bodies were taken from the crematorium to the highway and out of Bergamo.
Giacomo Angeloni, the local official in charge of cemeteries in Bergamo, said earlier this week that the crematorium was handling around 24 bodies a day, almost twice its normal maximum.
Local authorities in Bergamo had appealed for help with cremations after being overwhelmed by the death toll.
The pews of the crematorium church have been removed to leave space to lay out scores of coffins but more have been arriving every day.
One Italian who saw the picture of a column of trucks said it was "one of the saddest photos in the history of our country," while another said it was a "photo of war."
"We are Italians and it is at times like these that we bring out the best in us," one said.
"We will get out of it and we will do it for them too."
Italy recorded a record 4,207 cases and 475 deaths on Wednesday, scuppering hopes that the quarantine was starting to stall the rate of infections.
Italy's 475 new deaths are the largest number that any country, even China, has reported in a single day since the outbreak began late last year.
The previous record high of 368 deaths was also recorded in Italy, on Sunday.
However, officials warn there is a lag time between the lockdown being imposed and its effects become noticeable in the figures.
"The main thing is, do not give up," Italian National Institute of Health chief Silvio Brusaferro said in a nationally televised press conference.
"It will take a few days before we see the benefits" of containment measures, said Brusaferro.
"We must maintain these measures to see their effect, and above all to protect the most vulnerable."
The northern Lombardy region, of around 10 million people, has been at the epicenter of the crisis since the start, reporting two-thirds of all the deaths in the nation of 60 million.
It has been under lockdown since March 8.