An overcrowded morgue in San Cristóbal, western Venezuela, has asked families of the deceased to take their bodies home or face their relatives being buried in a communal, unmarked grave, La Nación reported on Wednesday.

Medical-forensic staff from the Pathological Anatomy Room at the Central Hospital of San Cristóbal had sent out a message to relatives of the deceased urging them to collect the bodies of their loved one to avoid overcrowding, according to the regional newspaper. The call to decongest the morgues is part of an effort to eliminate any risk of contamination to visitors or personnel working there as the bodies are rapidly decomposing due to lack of refrigeration and rolling power cuts.

Those bodies not claimed are eventually placed in a communal grave, meaning the deceased do not get the dignity of a funeral and a burial.

Problems in Venezuelan morgues have long been one of the more distressing realities presented by the socialist country’s ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis.

Last October, BBC Mundo revealed how bodies at a morgue in the state of Zulia had begun exploding from rot, with the lack of electricity meaning there is no effective cooling system to keep the temperature down. Due to the lack of refrigeration, many of the bodies quickly enter what is known as the emphysematous phase of decomposition when they can no longer contain the gases and putrid fluids accumulated inside them, eventually causing them to burst.

As far back as 2016, Breitbart reported on how many morticians were complaining that they did not have the sufficient resources to deal with the rising number of bodies delivered to their door, many of whom were the homicide victims killed as a result of the country’s widespread problem with violence.

Such horror stories are now part and parcel of life in Venezuela, where nearly 20 years of socialist rule has transformed what was once Latin America’s most thriving economy to one of the poorest countries in the world. In recent months, blackouts have crippled the country’s ability to function, with schools, hospitals, and other essential public services forced to close due to an inability to keep the lights on. As a result of the crisis, millions of Venezuelans have now fled their homeland in what has become one of the world’s most pressing migratory and humanitarian disasters.

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