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Madrid ice rink turned into morgue due to coronavirus

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Madrid (AFP)

An ice rink inside a Madrid shopping mall was on Monday turned into a temporary morgue on Monday to deal with a surge in deaths in the Spanish capital due to the coronavirus, local officials said.

The ice rink at the Palacio de Hielo, or Ice Palace, shopping centre -- which according to its web page has the capacity for 1,800 skaters -- will be used "to store bodies", a spokeswoman for Madrid city hall told AFP.

The coronavirus death toll in Spain, one of the worst-hit countries in the world, surged to 2,182 on Monday after 462 people died within 24 hours. The Madrid region accounts from over half of the deaths so far.

Earlier on Monday Madrid city hall said the city's 14 public cemeteries would cease to accept more bodies because staff there did not have adequate protective gear.

"Preparations have begun so that the installations ceded by the Ice Palace can receive bodies, and facilitate the work of funeral services in the face of this exceptional situation," the regional government of Madrid said in a statement.

This improvised morgue will start being used "in the coming hours," it added.

"This is a temporary and exceptional measure which aims to mitigate the pain of the family members of the victims and the situation hospitals in Madrid are facing."

The shopping mall is located in Madrid's northern Hortaleza neighbourhood, not far from the Ifema congress centre which has been converted into a field hospital for coronavirus patients that will have a total of 5,500 beds.

Under an agreement reached by the regional government of Madrid and the defence ministry on Friday, soldiers have started to help transport the remains of people who died from the virus to morgues.

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