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As Covid deaths mount, Panchkula cremation ground turns away 15 grieving families

Overwhelmed with bodies on Thursday with as many as 29 deaths in the district, at least 15 others who succumbed to the disease await their chance to turn to ash.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Panchkula |
April 30, 2021 5:20:08 am
India has now become the epicentre of the global pandemic. (Express Photo: Tashi Tobgyal)

UNDER the blue sky, all 14 funeral pyres burn ferociously at the only cremation ground of Panchkula in Sector 20 on Thursday. The air is filled with smoke and ashes as the stench of a burning human body makes it way through a lone family member, an MC official and those setting the pyres. Overwhelmed with bodies on Thursday with as many as 29 deaths in the district, at least 15 others who succumbed to the disease await their chance to turn to ash.

Reserved for the last rites of those being snatched away by Covid-19, the sole cremation ground of Panchkula city, which seldom saw any pyres, is now singed with flames. Thursday was particularly cruel. Family members and relatives grieving the loss of their loved ones are told to come another day. “We do not have any space left. All pyres are burning. They will cool down by tomorrow, we will then re-start cremating the rest,” says a caretaker.

As the flow of bodies to crematorium increases, administration starts preparing for a new cremation ground in Sector 28 of the city. “The wooden logs are all ready and have been dropped in that ground. It has been decided that five bodies will be burnt tomorrow morning in Sector 28 while the rest will be brought here,” adds the caretaker, who did not want to be named.

While the Panchkula health department has officially only accepted 44 Covid-related deaths in the district as per its daily health bulletin on Covid-19, records available at the cremation office suggest that at least 184 persons have already succumbed to the disease.

Against the 29 dead bodies which were brought into the CH6 mortuary to be burned as per the Covid protocol, only seven were reflected in the daily district bulletin.

As per the employees on the ground, cremating the Covid bodies each day, the number of bodies being burned has doubled in the past 10 days. While 7-8 dead bodies were being brought into the crematorium since the beginning of April, the number breached 12 in the past week.

“Today that number doubled and we ran out of pyres. There is an urgent need to start the LPG chamber of the crematorium,” said a security guard who works on the ground.

The gasifier chamber which was promised by Mayor Kulbhushan Goyal a day ago on Wednesday, is yet to start functioning. “The chamber has been lying ready in wait of LPG gas and a generator for the past 10 months. Nobody has cared about it. Yesterday suddenly the Mayor accompanied by several officials arrived to took a look at it. We have asked them for a generator too,” said another caretaker.

The situation has become so dire that non-Covid bodies are now being diverted to Manimajra crematorium. “We are left with no choice but to send the bodies away. There is no space for official Covid deaths here, how are we to arrange for non-Covid deaths as well,” say the crematorium staff.

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