As the coronavirus death toll keeps mounting, drone footage from New York City's Hart Island shows inmates wearing hazmat suits burying coffins in a mass grave. Hart Island is said to a burial site for unclaimed bodies from the city. The footage is said to have been shot on April 1.
For around 150 years the island has been used for burying unclaimed bodies. Melinda Hunt, director of the Hart Island Project, produced the video. According to Hunt, it is unsure whether all of the cases were COVID-19 victims but there are signs of recent burials on the island.
City Hall officials on Tuesday, April 7, said no COVID-19 patients were buried on the island till date even if they were unclaimed. The city's death toll had surged past 3,000 on Tuesday and the Mayor had mentioned about the island becoming a burial ground.
The Hart Island Project is an advocacy group that asks people to visit the mass grave. The drone video released shows inmates burying the dead in a wooden coffin while wearing hazmat suits. In usual conditions, if the buried weren't having coronavirus like the city hall claims, then the prisoners would be wearing normal uniforms.
The online community is discussing the emotional and psychological impact the burying of the dead bodies could lead to. People are also talking about the government response and the use of prison labour during such emergency situations.
"We may well be dealing with temporary burials so we can then deal with each family later," said the Mayor of New York City on Monday as the death toll rose at an alarming rate.
According to the Daily Mail, in a normal week around 24 bodies are buried in the island.
Burials for inmates and homeless
Officials have previously been considering temporary burial sites for the dead. A few days ago, officials had raised the prospect that Hart Island might be the location where the dead would be buried. But Councilman Mark Levine had raised the possibility that the bodies might be buried in public parks which he later said wouldn't happen.
Drafted in 2008, there is a city protocol that proposed solutions during such catastrophic events.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said during his daily briefing that he wasn't aware of the need for alternative internment plans nor did he think there was a need for them.