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Paris market becomes makeshift mortuary

Kristie Pladson
April 2, 2020

A French refrigerated hall belonging to the largest food market in Europe will be converted into a mortuary for people who have died from coronavirus. The Parisian market will continue to sell food. 

A doctor in protective clothing at a French intensive care unit
Image: Reuters/B. Tessier

Europe's largest food market will begin storing coffins holding the bodies of people who have died from the coronavirus, as France's morticians struggle to keep up with the mounting death toll. 

The refrigerated hall of the wholesale food market Rungis, located in a southern suburb of Paris of the same name, has been taken over by city authorities to be used for this purpose, Paris police announced on Thursday. Rungis is the main food market in Paris and the largest wholesale market in Europe. 

The first coffins containing human remains will begin arriving at the hall on Friday. The building will accommodate between 800 and 1,000 coffins.

Read more: Is comparing coronavirus death rates futile?

Forced to take in the dead

French news agency AFP reported that Paris Police Chief Didier Lallement said the move was necessary to relive undertakers in Paris from the immense pressure they currently face. Over 4,000 people have died from coronavirus in France.

The crisis is expected to "continue for several weeks," Lallement said.

Paris "is the region of France the most affected by the coronavirus epidemic," a statement from the police said. 

Starting on Monday, family members will be allowed to say goodbye to the deceased at the wholesale market, but must observe strict hygiene rules. 

Coronavirus in Italien Särge vor Krematorium von Piacenza
The bodies of those killed by the coronavirus have become more than mortuaries, like this one in Italy, can handleImage: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/LaPresse/C. Furlan

Read more: Coronavirus: Why are the death rates different?

Food market to remain open

Meanwhile, the market will remain open and will continue selling food. 

The makeshift mortuary is located on the edge of the market and "isolated from the other pavilions," the police chief said. 

The coffins will eventually be moved from the market hall to cemeteries or crematoria around France or abroad. 

France is one of the EU countries the worst hit by the coronavirus. 

"Rungis has been opened in the event that we reach a phase of mass death," said Richard Feret, director of CPFM, a French funeral confederation, French daily Le Parisien reported. "We are not yet at that point."

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