COVID-19: As bodies pile up, crematoriums overburdened in cities

Across the country, scenes of tens to hundreds of dead bodies being piled up waiting for the final rites to be held are flooding social media.

Hyderabad: An unprecedented situation has gripped the country, which is currently struggling with the second wave of COVID-19 cases. The grim situation is pushing the death toll further up by the day, with crematoriums in different cities struggling to handle the number of dead bodies that are piling up.

Across the country, scenes of tens to hundreds of dead bodies being piled up waiting for the final rites to be held. Pictures of the same are also flooding social media. And it is not just lack of space; some reports also state that chimneys in the crematoria have melted due to round-the-clock cremations.

The situation is so bad that in Bhopal’s Bhadbhada crematorium, people say they have not witnessed such scenes since the 1984 gas tragedy. All this, and it only seems like both central and state governments are trying to hide the number of deaths in several states.

Overburdened crematoriums, overworked staff

In the central state of Madhya Pradesh, horrifying scenes have become the leitmotif of COVID-19, as long queues of ambulances waiting their turn for final rites of COVID-19 victims are awash on social media.

“In the last four days, we have cremated 200 bodies, including those that needed to be disposed of as per COVID-19 protocols,” Mamtesh Sharma, secretary of the management committee of Bhadbhada Vishram Ghat, one of the biggest Hindu crematoriums in Bhopal, told PTI.

Ranchi: Ambulances, carrying the mortal remains of those who died of COVID-19, stand parked outside a crematorium, in Ranchi, Sunday night, April 11, 2021. (PTI Photo)

“I am feeling weak, getting tired… too many dead bodies are coming in and it is crowded here. We can’t even take a break for lunch,” Pradeep Kanojia, a worker at the Bhopal crematorium, told NDTV. Both the statements are proof of the fact that the actual toll of the ongoing COVID-19 is far worse than anyone has imagined.

Delhi too has an equally sombering number to share. The crematoria staff in the capital city has been complaining that the local authorities have not given them sufficient protective gear. Local media reports are filled with these grim stories. Another worst affected place is Gujarat, where a crematorium in Surat has seen about 100-115 bodies arriving for cremation every day over the past few days. Otherwise, on an average day, they get 20-25 cremations.

Surat: Ambulances, carrying bodies of people who died of COVID-19, parked outside the Jahagirpura Crematorium for their last rites, as coronavirus cases surge countrywide, in Surat, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (PTI Photo)

In Surat again, a crematorium that was closed 15 years ago was reopened so that it can accommodate more dead bodies. Meanwhile, outside Bhainsakund Crematorium in Lucknow, authorities have erected a temporary tin wall after a video of rows of pyres of COVID-19 victims went viral on social media earlier this week.

Lucknow: The Bhaisakund crematorium in Lucknow being covered with blue tin sheets on Thursday after its photo and videos showing a number of dead bodies burning went viral on social media, in Lucknow, April 15, 2021. (PTI Photo)

Queues of ambulances, with tokens issued to families who are supposed to wait for 8-10 hours for their turn are a common sight in all these states.

Bodies lined up for cremation, amid a surge in Covid-19 cases across the country, at Hindon river crematorium in Ghaziabad, Friday, April 16, 2021. With an increasing number of deaths due to Covid-19, the waiting period at crematoriums has gone up. (PTI Photo)

Underreported deaths

Even with the ever-increasing number of dead bodies reaching the crematoriums, it is believed that numbers provided by states like UP and Gujarat fails to match the figures, which many believe are a result of underreporting. Up to April 15, there were around 174,000 recorded COVID-19 deaths in India.

In Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, the local media is on a warpath with the state governments about its underreporting of fatalities. It is likely that the same situation is also playing out in other states as well.

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