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Malhotra said his staff started work at 6am and did not stop until 7pm, at three different crematorium grounds in Delhi. “We have a core team of 25 people who work for 13 hours every day,” he said. “But it’s getting worse.”
He added: “It’s heartbreaking. In one family there were six members and five died from Covid in just a few days. It’s so, so sad, we could never have imagined that this number of people would be dying. Now the cremators are getting infected. Last week, my ambulance driver who has been collecting sick people and dead bodies also died because he got coronavirus. It never ends.”
Numerous crematoriums in Delhi have been forced to expand into footpaths, nearby parks, car parks and open ground but they are still running out of space. At Sarai Kale Khan crematorium, 70 extra funeral pyre platforms are being built.
In the Dwarka area of Delhi, a dog crematorium is to be converted into use for human bodies as the authorities scrambled for additional space for the Covid dead, and authorities are also looking for space along the Yamuna river.
A senior official in Delhi said the city was experiencing a 15% rise in funerals every day. Municipal corporations have been instructed to expand crematorium capacity to cope with 1,000 bodies a day.
Crematoriums are also reportedly running low on wood to build the funeral pyres. Some trees in the capital’s parks have been cut down and in east Delhi, the municipal corporation issued orders to use cow dung patties, instead of wood, in cremations.
“If we get more bodies then we will cremate on the road. There is no more space here,” said Jitender Singh Shanty, who is coordinating more than 100 cremations per day at an east Delhi crematorium. “We had never thought that we would see such horrible scenes.”
The explosion in cases was reflected across the country, with 11 states all registering their highest number of daily cases so far in the pandemic, with hospital beds in Goa and Haryana running out.
India’s devastating second wave has driven a surge in global coronavirus cases to 147.7 million. The virus has now killed more than 3.1 million people worldwide.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the B1617 variant of Covid-19 first found in India, which is feared to be driving India’s deadly second wave, had now been traced in “at least 17 countries”. Currently the WHO has dubbed it as a “variant of interest” but so far it has stopped short of declaring it a “variant of concern” similar to the Brazil, UK and South African variants.
In Fiji, an outbreak of the Indian variant has forced the capital into lockdown after the island nation had avoided infections for a year, with health officials saying they fear a “tsunami” of cases.