El Salvador is racked by drug-fuelled violence, with entire city neighbourhoods controlled by powerful gangs known as 'maras'. The murder rate has risen steadily since 2014 when a truce between the country's two main gangs – Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) – began to fall apart.

El Salvador gangs
Ines Guevara\'s dead body is seen at a car wash in San Salvador, on 24 September 2015. She was shot dead while playing with a ball with colleagues during a break, according to local media Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
A ball is lies on top of police tape at a crime scene where Ines Guevara was shot dead at a car wash in San Salvador Jose Cabezas/Reuters
El Salvador gangs
The feet of a dead man are seen underneath a tree at a crime scene in San Salvador, on 26 September 2015 Jose Cabezas/Reuters

Last year was the most violent on record, with a 70% increase in murders from the previous year. The number of homicides reached an estimated 6,650 in 2015, up from 3,912 the year before, said Miguel Fortin Magana, former director of the National Forensics Institute of El Salvador. "It's a real pandemic," he admitted.

The homicide rate is more than 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, making the country of 6.4 million among the most violent in the world, according to Insight Crime, a foundation that analyses organised crime. In August 2015 alone, 907 murders were recorded across the country in the highest monthly toll since the 1980-1992 civil war.

El Salvador gangs
The dead body of Antonio Jimenez Patrix lies on the floor after he was killed at the Central Market in San Salvador, on 17 July 2015. Patrix was working for a man who owns a stall selling bananas at the market. The owner refused to pay extortion money and Patrix, who was selling the bananas on behalf of the owner, was shot dead, according to local media Jose Cabezas/Reuters

As he finished a 24-hour in which he examined more than a dozen corpses, William Hernandez, a coroner at the National Forensics Institute, said he has never dealt with so many violent deaths nor seen such vicious attacks. "There have always been violent deaths, but not like now. The increase has been incredible," he said. "If you had one or two shots before, it's now between 15 and 30. The last body I examined had 42 entry and exit wounds."

In 2015, 62 police and 24 members of the armed forces died in clashes with the gangs. The violence has also prompted women and children to emigrate to the United States. The price of the violence is not only paid in the loss of life. High levels of violence and insecurity cost the Salvadoran state $2.85bn (£2bn) in 2014, or 11% of the country's GDP, said Oscar Cabrera, president of the country's central bank. "That cost is too high," he said. "That is [money] you could devote to investment, schools, infrastructure projects."