India’s ongoing coronavirus crisis is most visceral in overwhelmed cemeteries and crematoriums as glowing, glowing funeral pyres light up the night sky in its worst-hit cities.
Apart from crematoriums in cities like the capital New Delhi, which currently has the highest number of daily cases, ambulance after ambulance is lining up to cremate the dead.
Delhi has cremated so many organisms that authorities are receiving requests to start cutting down trees in city parks for kindling as a record rise in COVID-19 collapses the city’s shattered health system ‘India.
The country of nearly 1.4 billion people set a world record for new daily infections for a fifth consecutive day on Monday. The 352,991 new cases pushed India’s total past 17 million, behind only the United States.
Deaths have increased by 2,812 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 195,123, the health ministry said, although that number is considered a considerable undercount.
The chief gravedigger at New Delhi’s largest Muslim cemetery, where 1,000 people were buried during the pandemic, said more bodies were arriving now than last year.
“I’m afraid we will run out of space very soon,” Mohammad Shameem said.
In the central town of Bhopal, some crematoriums have increased their capacity from dozens of pyres to over 50. Yet there are still hours of waiting.
At the city’s Bhadbhada Vishram Ghat crematorium, workers said they cremated more than 110 people on Saturday, even as government figures in the city of 1.8 million put the total number of deaths from the virus at just 10.
“The virus is swallowing the people of our city like a monster,” said Mamtesh Sharma, an official at the site.
The unprecedented rush of bodies has forced the crematorium to skip individual ceremonies and exhaustive rituals that Hindus believe frees the soul from the cycle of rebirth.
“We just burn the bodies when they arrive,” Sharma said. “It’s like we’re in the middle of a war.”
A woman mourned the death of her younger brother, aged 50. He was turned away from two hospitals and died while waiting to be seen at a third, breathless as his oxygen cylinder was exhausted and did not need to be replaced.
She blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government for the crisis. “He lit funeral pyres in every house,” she cried in a video shot by The Caravan magazine.