Coronavirus Forces Crematoriums in India to Build Mass Funeral Pyres in Parking Lots

TOPSHOT - Relatives watch the cremation of their loved one who died of the Covid-19 coronavirus at Nigambodh Ghat Crematorium in New Delhi on April 28, 2021. (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA / AFP) (Photo by TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images)
TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images

Crematoriums in Delhi began using their parking lots for mass funeral pyres in recent days as they operate beyond capacity amid a relentless surge of new Chinese coronavirus cases and deaths across India.

“[Delhi] Authorities have been forced to create more funeral pyres so that people do not have to wait for hours and risk exposure to the virus,” Britain’s Independent newspaper reported on April 28.

“They are building dozens of new pyres at existing crematoriums, as well as using any additional space available, such as parking areas or nearby parks,” according to the newspaper.

Delhi is the national capital territory of India, located in the country’s north. The territory is home to over 30 million people and contains India’s capital city, New Delhi.

The Ghazipur crematorium in east Delhi began using its parking lot to stage mass funeral pyres on April 22, the Hindustan Times reported Saturday.

Ghazipur crematorium’s staff told the newspaper they were forced to start “setting up pyres on the parking lot next to the road, with no more than a three-foot gap between bodies” after receiving at least 85 bodies, all victims of the Chinese coronavirus, on April 22.

“The designated funeral platforms are about 400 meters from the parking space and can dispose of only 36 bodies at a time, facility staff said. With the ceaseless arrival of dead bodies on Thursday [April 22], crematorium staff said they had to burn bodies round-the-clock at every available space,” the Hindustan Times reported.

An unnamed Delhi civic body official told the newspaper that at least 100 bodies were brought to Ghazipur crematorium on April 23, adding, “We stopped counting after that.”

Ghazipur crematorium handled “a maximum of 25 bodies a day, and around 10-15 on average” prior to the outbreak of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, according to the Hindustan Times.

“We hardly got 15 bodies a day in January and February [2021] and now the number has suddenly risen to 80 a day. The mortuaries are not storing the bodies of Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] patients and families cannot take them home,” an official at Ghazipur crematorium told the newspaper on condition of anonymity.

“Although the Hindu faith does not advise burning bodies after sunset, the situation is different now. We work even past midnight these days. People do not mind even if the bodies are burnt on the ground instead of the raised platforms,” the official said.

“We cannot follow protocol anymore because of the rush. We are left with no option but to burn Covid [Chinese coronavirus] and non-Covid [Chinese coronavirus] bodies in the same space,” another official at Ghazipur crematorium who identified himself by his first name, Manoj, told the Hindustan Times.

“Had we not used this space, people would have to wait for days to complete the last rites of their loved ones,” Manoj said, referring to the crematorium’s parking lot.

“Two days ago, several grieving families had to be told to take bodies back as the pyre platforms were full and people were already in queue. That is when we decided to use the parking space,” he explained, speaking to the paper on April 22.

An elderly man in the Jaunpur district of India’s Uttar Pradesh state, which borders Delhi, was forced to carry his deceased wife’s body around on a bicycle for hours this week looking for a crematorium that would accept her body after she was denied a funeral in her own local village of Amberpur.

“Locals of the village in Jaunpur did not allow the funeral of the woman fearing coronavirus. The administration, however, has not confirmed if she was Covid [Chinese coronavirus] positive,” India Today reported on April 28. The woman was admitted to a Jaunpur hospital on April 26 and died shortly afterward.

“The elderly man then ended up carrying his wife on the bicycle and rode around the place for hours,” according to the magazine. “No one in the village tried to help the man with the cremation, nor did anyone reach out to him to share his grief. On the other hand, they ended up stopping the man from cremating his wife at the cremation ghat near the village.”

“After the police were informed of the ordeal, the Jaunpur Police then conducted the last rites of the woman at Ramghat [a local Hindu temple] on Tuesday,” India Today reported.

Delhi government authorities recently approved plans to allow a newly built crematorium meant for canines to burn human bodies due to the lack of sufficient funeral pyre spaces in the territory.

“South Delhi Municipal Corporation plans to create temporary human funeral pyre platforms on the project site meant for the first municipal dog crematorium of the city in Dwarka sector,” the Times of India reported on April 28.

“The crematorium site, which is spread over 3.5 acres, has not been in operation yet,” the newspaper noted.

India has recorded “at least 300,000 new [Chinese coronavirus] infections every day in the past week, with more than 360,000 new cases in the past 24 hours on Wednesday,” the BBC reported on April 28. “Overall, more than 17.9 million cases have been registered.”

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