Dozens of bodies have been discovered in trucks outside a funeral home New York City after a passer-by complained about the smell.
Workers, suited up in protective gear, were seen on Wednesday in the neighbourhood of Brooklyn, transferring the corpses into a refrigerated vehicle.
It was not clear how long the bodies had been stored in the U-Haul trucks or whether any were COVID-19 victims.
Investigators who responded to a 911 call found that the funeral home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, according to a US law enforcement official.
No criminal charges were brought against the funeral home and the official, who was not authorised to speak publicly about the investigation, spoke to The Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity.
ABC News reported about 100 bodies were stored in the vehicles. A person who answered the phone at the funeral home hung up without speaking.
Funeral homes say they are facing weeks-long backlogs to bury or cremate the dead.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams went to the scene and told the New York Daily News: “While this situation is under investigation, we should not have what we have right now, with trucks lining the streets filled with bodies.“
Adams said: “It was people who walked by who saw some leakage and detected an odor coming from a truck.”
The New York Police Department declined to comment. The Department of Health could not immediately be reached for comment.
The US coronavirus death toll topped 60,000 on Wednesday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
New York City has been at the epicentre of the global coronavirus pandemic and the city’s funeral homes have been overwhelmed. As of Wednesday, more than 18,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the US’s biggest city.
New York has set up temporary morgues and hospitals have used refrigerated tractor-trailers to cart away multiple bodies at a time, sometimes loading them in public view on the sidewalk.
Crematoriums have been backed up and funeral directors across the city have pleaded for help as they have run out of space.