New refrigerators ought to improve the foul odors at Guerrero’s morgues, where once again violent crime is putting a strain on the facilities: there are simply too many bodies.
The state Health Secretariat has announced it will buy three new refrigerators to combat overcrowding and the fetid stench of decomposing bodies.
The refrigerators will enable Forensic Medical Service (Semefo) facilities in Acapulco, Iguala and the state capital Chilpancingo to store an additional 150 bodies each. Each fridge has sufficient space to allow morgue employees or forensic specialists to carry out tests on bodies inside the fridges, preventing the escape of offensive odors.
The morgues have been overwhelmed by bodies because of high levels of violent crime in the state, one of Mexico’s most dangerous.
Semefo director Ben Yahuda Martínez said that due to a lack of space the morgues had been forced to stack bodies in the same refrigerator drawers, which had caused temperatures inside to rise between two and seven degrees.
The smell emanating from the Chilpancingo morgue became so bad this week that workers at the state’s Attorney General’s office (FGE), which is situated next to the city’s Semefo facility, walked off the job.
There were reportedly 600 corpses being stored there despite the facility having the capacity for just 200. The workers demanded that the morgue be moved out of fear that their health could be affected.
In an appearance before the state Congress, Health Secretary Carlos de la Peña Pintos told lawmakers that the responsibility of morgue workers is simple: receive bodies, carry out autopsies and then store them until they are claimed by family members.
However, new protocols demand that unclaimed corpses must undergo further scientific studies before they are buried.
De la Peña explained that a lack of funds to carry out those studies — and the large number of unclaimed corpses — had led to delays that caused the number of bodies at each morgue to exceed their capacities.
He explained that the particularly unpleasant smell at the Chilpancingo morgue this week was caused by the removal of corpses by a team of Argentine forensic specialists, a request made in relation to a case involving the violation of human rights.
Similar requests in the future will be carried out outside normal office hours to avoid a repeat of this week’s situation, he said.
However, the FGE workers say that they have been affected by the objectionable odors for several months and that they have intensified further over the past month.
The state’s morgues received a total of 2,614 unidentified bodies in 2016, the Semefo director said, a figure that equates to more than seven new nameless corpses every day.