Ambulances queue up at Bengaluru crematoriums as COVID-19 deaths rise

On Thursday BBMP released an order that would reserve three more crematoriums for COVID-19 victims in addition to the already existing four.
Ambulance queued outside Kengeri Crematorium
Ambulance queued outside Kengeri Crematorium
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There were three ambulances waiting outside the Kengeri crematorium in Bengaluru city on Friday 2.30 pm. The facility that was exclusively reserved for cremation of COVID-19 patients, was waiting to cremate 5 people, 6 people had already been cremated since morning.

At the Kengeri crematorium, the waiting hours had gone up and most families had to wait for two to three hours to get their slot. 

“My mother passed away. We have been waiting for two hours to cremate her. According to the crematorium personnel, it takes an hour to cremate one person and there are families of four more deceased people who are also waiting to cremate their dear ones,” said a man who had lost his mother due to COVID-19.

One more ambulance ushers in at Kengeri Crematorium while others are still waiting

According to an employee at the Kengeri crematorium that TNM spoke to, the previous day had been no different. The employee said that they received 23 bodies of COVID-19 victims on Thursday and that ambulances had queued up outside the facility. The scenario was similar in the Sumanahalli crematorium which received a total of 22 bodies of COVID-19 victims on Thursday. The staff at these crematoriums had to work beyond their usual hours to accommodate the surge, according to them.

Going by the numbers quoted by workers at various crematoriums to TNM, it is also evident that at least a few deaths have not been accounted for in the state’s bulletin. Bengaluru has witnessed a steady increase in the number of COVID-19 fatalities in the past few days. In the week starting April 10, Bengaluru has reported a total of 251 deaths due to COVID-19. The number of deaths increased from 19 on April 10 to 40 on April 12. The city recorded 57 deaths in total on Friday, April 16. As a result, the four crematoriums that the BBMP had allotted for handling COVID-19 patients were finding it tough to function with just two furnaces at each crematorium. The BBMP has now reserved three more crematoriums in addition to the four, to ease the burden.

“One person’s body takes one and a half hours to completely finish burning and until the furnace is ready, the body has to remain in the ambulance according to the rule. There were queues of ambulances because there were so many bodies,” said an employee working at the Kengeri crematorium in Bengaluru.

Though the crematorium workers and gravediggers are working overtime, many have not been receiving their salaries consistently in the past few months.

According to one of the employees, the increase in the number of bodies started after April 10. The number of deaths doubled over the course of two weeks as the city reported 390 deaths until April 16 whereas the city reported 147 deaths in March.

The BBMP War Room Record on COVID-19 cases and deaths in Bengaluru

Initially, four crematoriums at Medi Agrahara, Kudlu, Panathur and Kengeri were reserved for the bodies of COVID-19 victims. But on Thursday, the BBMP released an order which reserved three more crematoriums at Summanahalli, Peenya and Banashankari.

The order further stated that no fees may be collected for cremating COVID-19 victims.

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