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Deaths, desperation in India as gov`t appeals for urgent aid

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[Workers building more crematorium in Delhi, India. Photo/courtesy/BBC].

Makeshift pyres are being built in crematoriums in India’s capital Delhi as the city runs out of space to cremate its dead.

Deaths have been steadily rising in India as a deadly second wave of Covid-19 infections devastates the country, with 380 recorded in Delhi alone on Monday.

Medical oxygen, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and life-saving medicines are in short supply.

India has recorded more than a million Covid-19 cases in just a few days.

The number of reported cases declined slightly on Tuesday, to 323,144 from the peak of 352,991 the day before, bringing the total number of Indian cases so far to nearly 17 million with 192,000 deaths.

However, it is thought the true figures are far higher – both for deaths and cases.

An investigation by television station NDTV found at least 1,150 extra deaths which were not included in Delhi’s official Covid count over the last week. Other investigations have found similar examples of undercounting replicated across the country.

Crematorium staff are working throughout the night, with relatives of the dead reportedly having to help with the cremations, piling wood and assisting in other rituals.

In Delhi, parking lots, parks or empty ground are now being sought for the increasing need for cremations. Families often have to wait for hours before they are allowed to cremate their dead.

Crematorium space

At the capital city’s Sarai Kale Khan crematorium, at least 27 new platforms have been built, with 80 more being added in the park around the existing structure. Municipal authorities are also looking for additional spots near the city’s Yamuna river bed.

A worker at the crematorium, which originally had capacity for only 22, told The Hindu newspaper that they are operating from early morning to midnight.

At least 100 new cremation platforms under construction at Sarai Kale Khan crematorium which currently has space for 20 bodies but is receiving 60-70 bodies per day

Demand is likely to remain high. In Delhi – with its population of about 20 million people – hospitals are full and medical oxygen is scarce.

Desperation

 At least two hospitals in the city have seen patients die after oxygen supplies ran out. Ambulances are in short supply. It is becoming difficult for families to take their sick to hospitals even if they get a bed. Many have died waiting for one.

Many countries have offered their assistance to India – with oxygen supplies, as well as ventilators and concentrators.

The UK has begun sending ventilators and oxygen concentrator devices. European Union member states are also due to send aid, with France saying it will send oxygen.