Dozens of military vehicles have been pictured carrying coronavirus victims across Italy – with morgues too full to hold corpses.
The trucks were pictured driving through the city of Bergamo in the country’s Lombardy region, one of the worst-hit by the virus.
The city has recorded at least 93 coronavirus-related deaths as cases skyrocket.
Around 70 coffins were placed on 30 trucks and will be transported to creamatoriums in a dozen locations across Italy, foreign media reports.
Jean Pierre Ramponi, the medical director of the Chiari hospital in Brescia – also in Lombardy – said: “We prepared ourselves psychologically by seeing the images of China, but it was unthinkable to imagine such devastation.
“The situation with us, on the outskirts of Brescia, is dramatic, we don’t know where to bring patients, hospitals are doing everything, but beyond a certain number they cannot assist.
“There are lines for hours in front of the hospitals.”
The mayor of Bergamo, Giorgio Gori, said the true number of related deaths could be higher as many people with COVID-19 symptoms had died before being tested.
A spokesman for the local authority explained: “The crematorium of Bergamo, working at full capacity, 24 hours a day, can cremate 25 dead.
“It is clear that it could not stand up to the numbers of the past few days.”
Once the bodies have been cremated, the ashes will be brought back to Bergamo.
Coffins have already filled up two hospital mortuaries and a cemetery morgue.
The number of deaths across the country rose by 475 in one day to nearly 3,000, the biggest increase since the outbreak.
It is the world’s worst-affected country after China, where the virus originated last year.
Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, today reported now new cases for the first time since it began there in late December.