Rio de Janeiro -

The corpses of 40 babies were discovered by state prosecutors in a state hospital in Rio de Janeiro, sending shockwaves through the city, local media reported.

The children had died of natural causes at birth or shortly after birth and were left behind by their parents, according to a Monday report by Brazilian broadcaster Globo.

But some of the corpses had been in the hospital's morgue for four years.

Fifteen were still unidentified.

“The situation is horrifying: stacked corpses, poorly attended to,” said state prosecutor Ana Cristina Huth Macedo.

“It is even hard to explain what we stumbled upon.”

The find came to light after the hospital reported that a drug-addicted mother fled after the death of her premature baby and investigators enquired about the whereabouts of the child's remains. - Sapa-dpa