Satere-mawe indigenous men navigate the Ariau river at the Sahu-Ape community, in Amazonas, 80 km from the state capital Manaus (AFP Photo/RICARDO OLIVEIRA)

The mayor of Manaus, the biggest city in the Amazon rainforest region, asked world leaders Tuesday for help fighting the novel coronavirus, which has brought his city’s health system to the brink of collapse.

Manaus is the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, which has been devastated by the pandemic.

Mayor Arthur Virgilio sent video messages and letters pleading for funds and medical equipment to 21 world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“He emphasized the Amazon region’s historic role in preserving the world’s largest tropical rainforest,” his office said in a statement.

With only one intensive care unit to serve a state more than four times the area of Germany, Manaus has been overwhelmed by the outbreak, leaving hospitals to store cadavers in refrigerator trucks.

Amazonas state has registered 649 deaths from COVID-19 so far.

“For decades, we have played an important role for the health of the planet, keeping 96 percent of our original forest,” Virgilio said in his video to Macron, speaking in French.

“Now, in return, we need medical personnel, ventilators, protective equipment, anything that can save the lives of those who protect the great forest.”

Virgilio issued a similar appeal Saturday to Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, asking her to use her influence to help his city deal with the pandemic.

He has also given several tearful TV interviews since the start of the crisis.

Though not densely populated, the Amazon region is home to indigenous groups particularly vulnerable to outside diseases and has limited public health infrastructure.

Brazil is the Latin American country hit hardest by the pandemic, with 7,921 deaths so far.


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