People cremate their relatives, who died due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at a crematorium ground in New Delhi, India, April 28, 2021. (REUTERS)
People cremate their relatives, who died due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), at a crematorium ground in New Delhi, India, April 28, 2021. (REUTERS)

'100 bodies per day': Long wait for last rites as fatalities rise in Delhi

HT contacted at least six big crematoriums dedicated to Covid-19 victims in the national capital. The waiting time was between 18-26 hours in each of these facilities.
By Soumya Pillai, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON APR 29, 2021 05:49 AM IST

Around 8am on Wednesday, Munna, a worker at the Ghazipur crematorium, had already helped facilitate 18 cremations while 30 more bodies were awaiting at the entrance for their turn. Some of the bodies had been queued up since Tuesday night.

“The bodies either lie outside or in the ambulances for many hours. Nowadays, with the soaring heat, it’s very hard working in PPE kits with two layers of masks,” Munna said.

On Wednesday, HT contacted at least six big crematoriums dedicated to Covid-19 victims in the national capital. The waiting time was between 18-26 hours in each of these facilities. The soaring mercury levels in the city are making matters worse. On Wednesday, Delhi’s maximum temperature touched 42.2 degrees Celsius.

Since April 20, Delhi has recorded 2,648 deaths till Tuesday evening. Crematoriums and burial sites, which received 20-30 bodies, are now getting over 100 bodies per day.

Senior officials of the three municipal corporations in Delhi said they are aware of the problems, but said it was difficult to find an immediate solution.

“This time, many patients died because of lung infections and infected bodies anyway tend to decompose faster even if you keep them under ideal conditions. We cannot help much here. We can cremate a body after the ones on the pyres are fully burnt and the pyre is sufficiently cool,” said Krishna Prasad, a manager at the Nigambodh Ghat crematorium.

North Delhi mayor Jai Prakash agreed that while arrangements are being made for the relatives accompanying the dead bodies, there was no provision to prevent the bodies from starting to decompose. “These facilities cannot be arranged overnight. While we are trying our best to keep up with the rising Covid deaths, we are not receiving any help from the Delhi government,” said Prakash.

Crematorium staff also said the shortage of space was a major factor behind the wait at these facilities, and limited manpower also slowed the process.

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