India’s Crematoriums Overwhelmed As Coronavirus ‘Swallows People’

by Jeremy

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s crematoriums and burial grounds are being overwhelmed by the devastating new surge of infections tearing through the populous country with terrifying speed, depleting the supply of life-saving oxygen to critical levels and leaving patients to die while waiting in line to see doctors.

NEW DELHI, INDIA - APRIl 23: COVID-19 victims being cremated at Seemapuri crematorium, on April 23, 2021 in New Delhi, India.

For the fourth straight day, India set a global daily record for new infections, spurred by an insidious, new variant that emerged here, undermining the government’s premature claims of victory over the pandemic. The 349,691 confirmed cases over the past day brought India’s total to more than 16.9 million, behind only the United States. The Health Ministry reported another 2,767 deaths in the past 24 hours, pushing India’s COVID-19 fatalities to 192,311.

Experts say that toll could be a vast undercount, as suspected cases are not included, and many deaths from the infection are attributed to underlying conditions.

The crisis unfolding in India is most visceral in its graveyards and crematoriums and in heartbreaking images of gasping patients dying on their way to hospitals due to lack of oxygen.

Burial grounds in the Indian capital New Delhi are running out of space, and bright, glowing funeral pyres light up the night sky in other badly hit cities.

In central Bhopal city, some crematoriums have increased their capacity from dozens of pyres to more than 50. Yet officials say there are still hours-long waits.

At the city’s Bhadbhada Vishram Ghat crematorium, workers said they cremated more than 110 people on Saturday, even as government figures in the entire city of 1.8 million put the total number of virus deaths at just 10.

“The virus is swallowing our city’s people 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 complete rituals that Hindus believe release the soul from the cycle of rebirth.

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