Monrovia crematorium cannot cope with Ebola surge: Red Cross

Monrovia's crematorium, seen on August 14, 2014 (AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso)

Monrovia (AFP) - The crematorium in the Liberian capital Monrovia is struggling to deal with the dozens of Ebola victims whose bodies are being brought each day, the Red Cross said Thursday.

Fayah Tamba, the secretary-general of the Liberian division of the charity, said workers were having to return corpses to a hospital in the city after being told there was not the capacity to cremate all the victims.

She told a local radio station that she believes it may now be necessary for international organisations to take over responsibility for handling the crisis from the national authorities.

Liberia has seen the biggest toll among the four west African countries hit by Ebola, with 576 deaths from 972 diagnosed cases to date.

Speaking just hours before a UN-appointed doctor was due to arrive in the region to help combat the spread of the disease, Tamba said that Liberia also needed help to deal with the dead.

"We are constrained... On Saturday our team was able to collect up to 41 bodies. On Sunday they collected up to 37 bodies. The crematorium did not have the capacity to cremate all these bodies, so we had to... carry them (back) to ELWA," the hospital in the capital, she told a local radio station.

"The next morning we had to make sure to carry these bodies to the crematorium and make sure they were cremated before we could start collecting new ones," she said.

She suggested that international assistance might now also be helpful as the country struggles to contain the outbreak.

"As it is today, based on our experience, when you have a situation of this calamity, of this magnitude, we think it is important for us to have an international organisation that will coordinate the humanitarian intervention," she said.

Her comments came after a chaotic day in Liberia's capital on Wednesday, with violence erupting in an Ebola quarantine zone after soldiers opened fire and used tear gas on protesting crowds.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had ordered a nightime curfew and the quarantine of Monrovia's West Point slum and Dolo Town, to the east of the capital, in a bid to stem the outbreak.

According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak -- the worst ever-recorded -- has killed at least 1,350 people, 576 in Liberia, 396 in Guinea, and 374 in Sierra Leone.