Authorities in the Pacific port city say they've received a donation of 1,000 pressed cardboard caskets from local producers, and delivered them for use in two local cemeteries.

This handout picture released by Guayaquil Mayor's Office shows employees with a donation of cardboard coffins in Guayaquil, Ecuador on April 5, 2020.
This handout picture released by Guayaquil Mayor's Office shows employees with a donation of cardboard coffins in Guayaquil, Ecuador on April 5, 2020. (AFP)

Soaring numbers of Covid-19 deaths in Ecuador's city of Guayaquil have led to a shortage of coffins, forcing locals to resort to using cardboard boxes, city authorities said.

Authorities in the Pacific port city said they had received a donation of 1,000 pressed cardboard caskets from local producers, and delivered them for use in two local cemeteries.

"It's so they can meet demand," a city hall spokesman said. "There are either no coffins in the city or they are extremely expensive."

Ecuador has reported 3,646 cases of the coronavirus, including 180 deaths, the majority of them occurring in Guayaquil and its surrounding province of Guayas.

Businessman Santiago Olivares, who owns a chain of funeral homes, said his company was unable to keep up with demand.

"I sold the 40 that I had at the downtown branch, and 40 others from my headquarters. I had to order 10 more at the weekend and they've run out," Olivares said.

The cheapest coffins currently cost around $400. 

Olivares said a 15-hour curfew in the city was contributing to the shortage of basic raw materials for coffin-makers like wood and metal.

Last week, residents posted videos on social media showing abandoned bodies in the streets in the Latin American city worst hit by the pandemic.

The government called in troops to pick up 150 corpses from streets and homes last week after mortuary workers in the city were unable to keep up with a backlog of removals.

The cardboard coffins "will be a great help in providing a dignified burial for people who died during this health emergency," the Guayaquil mayor's office wrote on Twitter. 

Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner apologised on Sunday after scores of bodies were left on the streets of Guayaquil. 

Source: AFP