'No Covid-19 bodies in 2-4 days': Crematorium workers in Delhi get a breather

As Delhi came in the grip of the deadliest yet wave of viral disease, for around three weeks beginning in the second half of April, the national capital’s crematoriums and burial grounds were inundated with a grim wave of their own.
A worker sitting next to a stack of wood for funeral pyres at Sarai Kale Khan crematorium, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times)
A worker sitting next to a stack of wood for funeral pyres at Sarai Kale Khan crematorium, in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times)
Published on Jun 08, 2021 04:00 PM IST
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By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Arpan Rai, New Delhi

The horror unfolding in the national capital's crematoriums during a deadly fourth wave may have come to an end as the infection rate and deaths ebb away. The overworked and burdened crematorium workers who were working all day round now say that the cremation rate, pushed by hundreds of coronavirus deaths, has come down in Delhi.

“There is some relief now than before. We haven't received Covid-19 bodies in the last 2-4 days. Earlier, we used to cremate 25-27 Covid-19 bodies every day,” a crematorium worker told news agency ANI.

As Delhi came in the grip of the deadliest yet wave of viral disease, for around three weeks beginning in the second half of April, the national capital’s crematoriums and burial grounds were inundated with a grim wave of their own.

Also read: At Delhi crematoriums, corpses wait in 20-hour queues to burn

Delhi has three major cremation sites — Nigambodh Ghat, Punjabi Bagh crematorium, Seemapuri crematorium, among other district sites.

With bodies piling up with each hour, crematoriums expanded into parking lots and nearby open spaces as workers hurriedly built new platforms, and scoured the city to maintain their dwindling stocks of wood.

Officials confirm that no last rites have been held in a crematorium in Delhi in the last two days.

"For the past two days, no last rites of Covid-19 patients were held here. We are hopeful that the situation will continue to remain under control. We have made all arrangements for the anticipated third wave," East Delhi municipal corporation mayor Nirmal Jain told ANI.

According to the official data, the highest number of funerals conducted in a month as per Covid-19 protocols in Delhi ever since the coronavirus pandemic struck was in May this year and stands at 9,300. As per the data, this pegs the average number of funerals per day in May to about 300.

After May, April was the second-worst month in terms of Covid-19 funerals, with about 9,150 funerals, as per data from the three civic bodies -- NDMC, SDMC and EDMC.

Also read: Fewer pyres, chaos dissipates at Delhi’s Sarai Kale Khan crematorium

In an unanticipated sweep of deaths in April, crematorium managers were taken by surprise. According to them, the spike was sudden, giving them little time to make additional arrangements.

According to the government’s daily health bulletin, between April 1 and 7, there were 15 deaths a day on average. The number shot up to 58 the next week, to 192 the week after that and in the fourth week of the month, 356 fatalities were being recorded every day on average – according to official numbers.

In the first three days of May, it shot up even further -- there were over 400 deaths every day. The highest number of deaths recorded in a day till date was 448 on May 3.

At its peak last month, Delhi reported 448 deaths on May 3. Since then, the fatalities have come down. On Sunday, Delhi had recorded 34 fatalities, the lowest in around two months. Maintaining a steady decline, Delhi on Monday recorded 231 fresh cases of coronavirus diseases, the lowest since March 2, according to the health bulletin. As many as 1,429,475 people tested positive for Covid-19 in the national capital since the beginning of the pandemic.

North Delhi Mayor Jai Prakash has warned that the city-state needs to be watchful as the gradual reopening kicks in. "We need to be watchful. Only after lockdown is eased will we get the real picture," Prakash told ANI.

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