Spanish coffin maker works non-stop to meet grim wave of demand

Reuters

Posted at Apr 07 2020 11:16 PM

Coffins are seen at the caskets warehouse of a company selling coffins, Ataudes Chao, in Valdemoro, near Madrid, Spain, on April 3, 2020. Juan Medina, Reuters

MADRID - While most Spanish companies are shut amid the coronavirus pandemic, coffin-making firm Ataudes Chao has been working around the clock and hiring staff to meet unprecedented demand as the national death toll nears 14,000.

"Our orders have gone up eight-fold," said Maria Chao, CEO of the 110-year-old company specialising in wooden caskets, one of Spain's biggest. "We're distributing about 300 caskets daily, just to meet demand in the Madrid region."

Ataudes Chao had to hire six new permanent workers over the past ten days to increase production capacity, an almost 25% increase in the workforce.

Its distribution service began working around the clock during the state of emergency lockdown, and its plant in Galicia has increased production hours to 11 a day.

"Unfortunately, we estimate that the demand, though it'll level off a bit, will stay high - at least 60-70% of current levels," she said.

Surrounded by piles of new coffins ready to be sent to funeral homes, staff at Ataudes Chao removed crucifixes and other Catholic symbols from caskets destined for non-religious burials.

One casket with a glass window on its top panel lay discarded nearby. Such coffins have proved unpopular lately, since any breakage represents an infection risk.