Crematoriums in India have been forced to build makeshift funeral pyres in parks, parking lots and empty grounds as the country buckles under a second wave of the coronavirus, the worst surge in the world since the pandemic began.
India has been recording more than 320,000 new cases of COVID-19 each day, setting the world record for the highest number of daily cases on Monday Apr. 26 with 352,991 cases. Days earlier, it had just recorded one million new cases in just three days.
At least one person is dying every four minutes in New Delhi, according to Sky News, and local crematoriums are burning through the night as bodies continue to pile up.
Relatives – who are having to wait up to 20 hours for a pyre, according to the Hindustan Times – are being forced to perform last rites next to burning funeral pyres or forgo sacred rituals, which Hindus believe release the dead’s soul from the cycle of rebirth, entirely just so crematoriums can keep up with the bodies.
“The virus is swallowing our city’s people like a monster,” a crematorium official told AP. “We are just burning bodies as they arrive. It is as if we are in the middle of a war.”
Officials are cutting down trees in parks in Delhi to use as kindling for the pyres and asking relatives to help pile up wood, the BBC reported.
New pyres are being built at crematoriums and parks in Delhi, and officials are still looking for space for more pyres around the city, the BBC reported.
“People are just dying, dying and dying,” a crematorium official who is coordinating more than 100 cremations per day in Delhi told the Guardian.
“If we get more bodies then we will cremate on the road. There is no more space here.” More than 17.6 million cases have been reported since the first outbreak in India, and the number is still increasing. But the real number, experts fear, could be up to 30 times higher, according to CNN.
Hospitals in Delhi and other cities have already run out of beds and oxygen supplies.