(New Delhi) “I’m out of count,” sighs Sanjay, the priest performing the final rites of another deceased in a crematorium in Delhi so crowded that his disastrous actions are now spreading to a nearby parking lot.
“We start at sunrise and cremations continue after midnight,” he told AFP, his gaze lost in the flames of bonfires and heaps of smoking ash that were not long ago human before COVID-19 hit them.
Families mourn by the side of the road in this dysfunctional part of the capital, waiting in line for their loved ones, wrapped in white linen and garlands of yellow marigolds.
Ambulance sirens carrying other bodies keep ringing. Inhabitants of buildings overlooking the establishment are exposed to the stench of charred bodies and the groans of grieving families.
Indian hospitals and their staff are being severely tested by this devastating second wave of the coronavirus epidemic.
People die at the gates of hospitals or in their homes due to lack of beds, medicine and oxygen.
Crematoria do not know a truce, their chimneys are cracking, and the metal frames of the stoves melt from the intense heat.
Some establishments run out of wood, and families are asked to bring their own fuel.
Many crematoria and cemeteries say the official death toll from the virus is untrue given the influx of corpses they see at the parade.
100 funerals a day
Over the past three days, the Semapuri crematorium in northeast Delhi has held more than 100 funerals a day and is now out of place.
“We tried to place cremations in the aisles and wherever we could find a place, but the bodies kept coming,” coordinator Jitender Singh Shanti in a yellow turban and blue protective suit told AFP.
“We had to ask the authorities to allow us to expand the facility to a parking lot,” the Sikh adds, and orange flames rage on bonfires behind him at the end of the day. About 600 bodies have been cremated in his crematorium since the beginning of the month, according to Jitender Singh Shanti, and families continue to wait several hours before they can perform the final burial ritual.
“If the situation does not improve,” he adds, “we may have to cremate on the road as we are running out of space right now.” ”