Crematoriums in Gujarat operate around the clock as COVID death toll mounts; new cremation facilities set up

Because of non-stop fire in the furnace of some crematoriums, the steel plates on which dead bodies are kept for cremation have melted and the chimneys turned red hot

Representative Image (courtesy: Twitter)
Representative Image (courtesy: Twitter)

Nachiketa Desai

Over a dozen new crematoriums set up in Gujarat in the wake of the second wave of coronavirus pandemic are operating around the clock as the death toll from COVID-19 mounts.

In Gandhinagar district, 32 furnaces are operating in ten crematoriums, two of them old ones and eight set up recently. An average of 40 bodies have been arriving at the old crematoriums every day for the last over a fortnight. There was a waiting period of five to six hours for cremation of a body.

Following the heavy rush of dead bodies of COVID-19 patients brought from government and private hospitals, various social organisations have set up new cremation facilities in Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Jamnagar.

Because of non-stop fire in the furnace of some crematoriums, the steel plates on which dead bodies are kept for cremation have melted and the chimneys turned red hot.

The state government and charitable trusts managing the crematoriums of many towns, including those in the state capital Gandhinagar, are adding to the capacity to handle more number of dead bodies.

Deputy municipal commissioner of Gandhinagar P C Dave told media persons that eight new crematoriums were made operational in

Pethapur, Randheja, Raysan, Koba, Jhundal, Vavol, Bhat and Khoraj villages on the outskirts of the state capital to ease the rush of people in the two crematoriums of the city.

A new crematorium was started in Jamnagar as the two existing cremation facilities were unable to handle an extremely large number of dead bodies of COVID-19 patients. The number of deaths in Jamnagar’s COVID hospital has been increasing rapidly.

A large number of critical COVID-19 patients from Morbi and Rajkot district are brought to the Jamnagar COVID hospital for treatment. One can see 70 to 80 ambulance vans lined up outside the Jamnagar COVID hospital which bring patients from villages of neighbouring districts.

People avoid taking the dead bodies of their relatives to their native villages and are preferring to cremate the bodies in Jamnagar city. Because of this, there is a long waiting period for cremation of bodies in the city’s two crematoriums.

A new crematorium has now been started at Naghadi by a private charity trust on the outskirts of the city. There are six funeral pyres in the new crematorium at Naghadi. Crematorium trustee Vastabhai says a large number of people are dying because of the pandemic and people had to wait long for cremating the bodies of their relatives.

In some cases, bodies were even found abandoned in the hospital morgue. So, the Kabir Ashram and Samarpan Hospital trust started the new crematorium at Naghadi.

It was only recently that new cremation facilities have been set up in several towns. But a week ago, the condition of old crematoriums had become worse because of operating non-stop.

For instance, in the Kurukshetra crematorium at Jahangirpura of Surat, there are six gas-fired furnaces in which bodies of COVID-19 patients were being cremated round the clock since last one month. Because of the constant heat of the furnace, the steel angles melted. The chimneys of the gas-fired furnace too had turned red hot.

Kurukshetra crematorium trustee Prakash Patel told media persons that he had never seen such a situation during the last ten years that he has been a member of the managing committee of the crematorium.

The crematorium in Rajkot too has been operating round the clock as more than 50 COVID patients are dying every day. The management of the crematorium fear a major mishap or melting of the steel clamps due to constant working of the furnaces. Of the 11 crematoriums in Rajkot, 4 have been reserved for COVID victims.

Anticipating the arrival of more dead bodies, crematoriums have begun preparations in advance. In the new Kailash Mokshaadham crematorium of Surat, more than 25 pyres are kept ready in advance so that people do not have to wait long when they bring bodies from government and private hospitals.

In Surat, cremation is done in both gas chamber and on firewood pyres. As it takes time for green wood to catch fire, sugarcane bagasse, which is inflammable, is used with the firewood.

According to government figures, the death toll in Surat since last several days has remained at 25. In reality, 110 bodies have been cremated following COVID guidelines in all the crematoriums of Surat.

There are three cemeteries in Surat which too are making preparations in advance. On a normal day, two to three bodies used to be buried in each cemeteries. Now eight to ten bodies are brought in each of the cemeteries every day.

In Morabhagal cemetery, 25 grave pits have been dug in advance. It takes three hours for the labourers to dig a grave pit. Now, JCB machines are being used to dig the grave pits.

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