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Coronavirus strains Mexico’s cemeteries

With thousands of dead and counting, Mexico has been hit so hard by the coronavirus pandemic that many of its cemeteries are being overwhelmed. Photojournalist Jonathan Alpeyrie, author of “The Shattered Lens,” has been documenting the coronavirus crisis in Mexico and shared these images with CBS News. In this photo, a woman adjusts a grave marker…

Coronavirus strains Mexico’s cemeteries

With thousands of dead and counting, Mexico has been hit so hard by the coronavirus pandemic that many of its cemeteries are being overwhelmed. Photojournalist Jonathan Alpeyrie, author of “The Shattered Lens,” has been documenting the coronavirus crisis in Mexico and shared these images with CBS News. In this photo, a woman adjusts a grave marker at a cemetery in Tijuana, on June 18, 2020.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A woman at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 20, 2020. In the age of COVID-19, poor Mexicans have to deal with another layer of tragedy in an already violent land where thousands die due to the current drug war. Each day dozens of funerals take place, including many from the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Mourners at a funeral on June 20, 2020 in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.Photojournalist Jonathan Alpeyrie said deaths in Mexico are putting a heavy strain on cemeteries and crematoriums in major cities throughout the country.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A funeral on June 20, 2020 in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

The main municipal cemetery in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, has been running out of space due to an influx of COVID-19 deaths. The pandemic has put such strain on the government funeral system that remains of locals long dead are being removed from their burial sites to make room for the daily arrival of corpses. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

The main municipal cemetery in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, has been running out of space due to an influx of COVID-19 deaths. The law allows bodies to be removed from the above-ground tombs after six years to make room for new arrivals. “We have seen this firsthand, and it is quite difficult to watch,” Alpeyrie said. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Some of Mexico’s municipal cemeteries, like this one in Nezahualcoyotl, near Mexico City, have been overwhelmed by the surge in COVID-19 deaths. Remains of the long dead are being removed, and generally then cremated, to make room for the daily arrival of newly deceased. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

At the main municipal cemetery in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, remains of those long dead are being removed from above-ground tombs to make room for the daily arrival of new corpses amid the surge in deaths from COVID-19. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A long row of above-ground tombs at the main municipal cemetery in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

The main municipal cemetery in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, has been running out of space due to an influx of COVID-19 deaths.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A coffin is propped up along a row of above-ground tombs at the main municipal cemetery in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, which has been running out of space due to an influx of COVID-19 deaths.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A now-emptied coffin at the main municipal cemetery in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, which has been running out of space due to the surge of COVID-19 deaths. Remains of the long dead are being removed, and often cremated, to make room for new arrivals. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Smoke rises from a crematorium in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, where the main municipal cemetery has been running out of space due to the surge of coronavirus deaths. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

At the local crematorium in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, the coffin arrives of a man who died of COVID-19. Officially, the death toll from the pandemic in Mexico was about 33,500 as of July 10, 2020, but a great many more fatalities are believed to go unreported. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Photojournalist Jonathan Alpeyrie says the death toll from COVID-19 in Mexico is widely believed to be under-counted.”A lot of family members in Mexico do not want the authorities to know that their family members died of the virus because usually bodies are cremated as soon as this is found out,” he said. “And cremation in Mexican society is not always viewed as the proper religious etiquette … they would rather have a burial,” Alpeyrie told CBSN. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A man wearing a mask stands in the hallway of the local crematorium in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico. The facility has been working overtime since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A worker in the local crematorium in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A worker in protective gear at the local crematorium in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

The local crematorium in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, has been working overtime since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A worker in protective gear tends to a cremation in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

In Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, the coronavirus has hit especially hard. Local authorities have had major difficulties trying to close down this mostly poor, sprawling community near Mexico City, where most residents are surviving day-to-day and can’t stay quarantined. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Paramedics in Nezahualcoyotl, near Mexico City, are responding on a daily basis to their usual calls from accidents, murders, and other types of incidents in addition of a recent surge in coronavirus-related cases. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Paramedics in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, are being strained by an increase in calls for COVID-19 cases in addition to the usual array of accidents, murders, and other types of emergencies. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Paramedics in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, are dealing with an increase in calls for possible COVID-19 cases. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

In Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, whose residents are mostly poor, the coronavirus pandemic has hit home. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Paramedics in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, try to keep themselves safe without knowing if patients they are picking up are infected. This young man was hit by a car and badly injured. Though potentially showing symptoms of COVID-19, his family refused to let the ambulance drive him to the ER. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Paramedics in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, try to aid a young man who was was hit by a car and badly injured. Though potentially showing symptoms of COVID-19, his family refused to let the ambulance drive him to the ER. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

The ambulance system in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, is under strain from all the emergency calls, including a surge in suspected COVID-19 cases.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A woman in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, a town adjacent to Mexico City, which has been seeing a surge in coronavirus cases. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A statue guards an empty public square in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, where the coronavirus pandemic has hit hard. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

In Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, a family member has just collected the remains of a loved one who died of COVID-19. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

At the local crematorium in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico, a family pays its last respects to a man who died of COVID-19. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Mourners stand before a gravesite at a cemetery in Tijuana, Mexico.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A funeral on June 20, 2020 in Tijuana, Mexico. In the age of COVID-19, poor Mexicans have to deal with another layer of tragedy in an already violent land where thousands die due to the current drug war. Each day dozens of funerals take place here, including many from the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A hearse and coffin wait graveside on June 20, 2020 in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

The casket is lowered into the ground at a funeral on June 20, 2020 in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Each day dozens of funerals take place, including many from the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

People walk along a row of graves at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A funeral is held on June 20, 2020 in Tijuana. Each day dozens of funerals take place, including many from the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Grave markers at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. In the age of COVID-19, poor Mexicans have to deal with another layer of tragedy in a violent land where thousands die due to the current drug war. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Mourners at a funeral on June 20, 2020 in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Mourners stand by a gravesite amid the crosses at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 20, 2020.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Men carry a grave marker at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 20, 2020.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A man writes a name on a grave marker at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 20, 2020. Each day dozens of funerals take place, including many from the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Families wait outside a local government hospital in Tijuana, Mexico, to receive news of loved ones who are being treated for COVID-19, on June 18, 2020. The hospital is being used solely used to treat coronavirus patients. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Families receive news of loved ones who have contracted COVID-19, in Tijuana, Mexico, on June 18, 2020. The local government hospital nearby is being used solely to treat coronavirus patients.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

People aid a distraught man on the street in Tijuana, Mexico, on June 18, 2020. Families wait outside the local government hospital to receive news of loved ones who contracted COVID-19, and some must be told that their family member has died of the virus. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

With thousands of dead and counting, Mexico has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Cemeteries in Tijuana are being overwhelmed with both regular burials and COVID-19 victims. Here, a coffin is seen graveside on June 18, 2020. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Mexico has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Cemeteries in Tijuana are being overwhelmed with both regular burials and COVID-19 victims. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A man stands amid the graves at a cemetery in Tijuana, Mexico. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A coffin is moved from a hearse to a construction vehicle for transport at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 18, 2020.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A coffin is transported at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 18, 2020.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Fresh graves at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 18, 2020. With thousands of dead and counting, Mexico has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and cemeteries are being overwhelmed. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Flowers and candles are left atop graves marked by crosses at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 18, 2020.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A woman adjusts a grave marker at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 18, 2020.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Women stand at a grave in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 18, 2020.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Workers at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 18, 2020. With thousands of dead and counting, Mexico has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and cemeteries are being overwhelmed. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A man carries a cross and a shovel at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 18, 2020.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Workers shovel dirt at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 18, 2020. With thousands of dead and counting, Mexico has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and cemeteries are being overwhelmed. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

A man with a guitar stands near a row of graves in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 18, 2020.  Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

Crosses mark the graves at a cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, on June 18, 2020. Photojournalist Jonathan Alpeyrie spent weeks documenting the toll of the coronavirus pandemic in Mexico. He has covered events all over the world, including war zones in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. See more of his work here. Credit: Jonathan Alpeyrie

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