New Delhi runs out of space to cremate its dead.
India’s dramatic coronavirus crisis has forced the capital’s crematoria to build funeral pyres improvised and against the clock, while parks and other empty areas of the capital are also used for cremations.
The high demand has led to the families of the deceased having to wait hours to cremate their loved ones, while the number of deaths attributed to covid-19 continues to increase.
The second wave of the pandemic is being devastating for the second most populous country in the world, with 1.35 billion inhabitants and which adds more than 300,000 new infections every day.
The rapid advance of covid-19 in the Asian country, which in a matter of weeks has multiplied the rate of infections dramatically, caused a supply crisis that drowns some of the worst hit regions, such as New Delhi or western Maharashtra.
Working against the clock
In the capital crematorium of Sarai Kale Khan, at least 27 new pyres and another dozen were in the works Tuesday at an adjacent park. Authorities also began searching for additional space near the Yamuna riverbed.
A worker at the crematorium, with an initial capacity of 22 bodies, told the newspaper The Hindu That they are working from early in the morning until midnight.
According to local press, authorities in New Delhi have resorted to cutting down trees from city parks to use as firewood for pyres.
Relatives of the deceased have also been asked to help with cremations stacking wood and attend other rituals.
The Ghazipur crematorium in eastern New Delhi built 20 pyres in a parking lot. An official told the newspaper Indian Express that the waiting time for cremation ranged between 3 and 4 hours, since the cremation of the bodies takes up to 6 hours.
The situation is also serious in other crematoria.
Sunil Kumar Aledia, who runs the Center for Holistic Development, an organization that provides assistance with oxygen, food and cremations, told the BBC that some companies they don’t have space to expand your services.
And it is very likely that the demand for cremations will continue to be high. In New Delhi, with a population of 20 million people, hospitals have been overwhelmed and oxygen for medical use is limited.
How serious is the situation in the country?
India has registered more than a million cases of covid-19 in just a few days. Shortages of medicines, ambulances, oxygen and intensive care unit (ICU) beds have been reported.
At least two hospitals in the capital saw their patients die after running out of oxygen.
And it has become increasingly difficult for families to transfer their patients to hospitals even if they find a bed available. Many, in fact, have died waiting for one.
Given the magnitude of the crisis, social media is rife with pleas for help, with people searching desperately oxygen, medicine and ICU beds.
Many countries have offered their help. Britain started shipping respirators and oxygen, although a spokesman for the prime minister, Narendra Modi, said the country had no surplus of vaccines to make available to India.
France, Ireland, Germany and Australia are also sending medical teams, while the WHO assured that it will send thousands of oxygen generators.
The president of the United States, Joe Biden, spoke with Modi and assured that he had “the full support” of the US.
Washington lifted the ban on exporting raw materials for vaccine production abroad, allowing India to manufacture more doses of AstraZeneca. It will also provide medical and protective equipment.
However, Zarir Udwadia, who works in Mumbai hospitals and advises the government, warned on the BBC’s Today program that the promised supplies will have a limited effect.
Udwadia explained that he was seeing, “shift after shift, people with breathing difficulties hooked up to respirators of different sizes and shapes.”
The number of recorded COVID-19 cases fell slightly Tuesday to 323,144 from its peak of more than 350,000 the day before.
In total and until this April 27, India had registered 17.6 million cases of coronavirus and 197,984 deaths, according to data from John Hopkins University.
However, it is believed that the actual number may be much higher.
An investigation by the NDTV network found at least 1,150 more deaths that had not been included in the official records of New Delhi last week. Other investigations have also yielded similar examples of cases that have not been reported.
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