New Delhi forced to build makeshift funeral pyres as India coronavirus death toll climbs

Luke O'Reilly
·3-min read
<p>A family performs the last rites</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

A family performs the last rites

(AFP via Getty Images)

Crematoriums in New Delhi have been forced to build makeshift funeral pyres as India’s Covid death toll continues to rise.

Parks and other empty spaces have been commandeered for burning bodies as staff at the crematoriums work 24/7 to keep up, the BBC reported.

At the capital city's Sarai Kale Khan crematorium, at least 27 new pyres have been built and dozens more are being added in a nearby park. Officials are also looking for additional space near the city's Yamuna river bed.

A park near Sarai Kale Khan crematorium has had dozens of pyres built in it, while officials are considering using another space near the city's Yamuna river.

A woman mourns her relative who has died from CovidAP
A woman mourns her relative who has died from CovidAP

India's 323,144 new cases over the past 24 hours stood below a worldwide peak of 352,991 hit on Monday, and 2,771 new deaths took the toll to 197,894.

It came as vital medical supplies began to reach India on Tuesday as hospitals starved of life-saving oxygen and beds turned away coronavirus patients, and a surge in infections pushed the death toll close to 200,000.

A shipment from the UK, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, arrived in the capital, New Delhi, though a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had no surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to spare.

France is sending eight large oxygen generating plants this week and Ireland, Germany and Australia are sending oxygen concentrators and ventilators, an Indian foreign ministry official said, underlining the crucial need of oxygen.

India's first "Oxygen Express" train pulled into New Delhi, laden with about 70 tonnes of oxygen from an eastern state, but the crisis has not abated in the city of 20 million at the epicentre of the latest wave of infections.

"The current wave is extremely dangerous and contagious and the hospitals are overloaded," said Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, adding that a large public area in the capital will be converted into a critical care hospital.

Crematoriums are running out of spaceAFP via Getty Images
Crematoriums are running out of spaceAFP via Getty Images

With frustration mounting, relatives of a recently deceased Covid-19 patient attacked staff with knives at a hospital in the southeast of New Delhi, injuring at least one person, a hospital spokeswoman said.

A video posted on social media showed several people brawling with guards at the same hospital. Delhi High Court has advised local authorities to provide security at hospitals.

The World Health Organisation said it was working to deliver 4,000 oxygen concentrators to India, where mass gatherings, more contagious variants and low vaccination rates have sparked the outbreak.

With vaccine demand outstripping supply in the world's second-most populous country, two US drugmakers have offered support.

Gilead Sciences said on Monday it would give India at least 450,000 vials of its antiviral drug remdesivir, and Merck & Co said on Tuesday it was partnering with five Indian generic drugmakers to expand production and access to its experimental Covid-19 drug molnupiravir.

India is also negotiating with the United States, which has said it will share 60 million doses of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine with other countries. A senior official participating in the talks said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been assured of priority for India.

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