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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

With Bengaluru crematoriums running out of space, pyres burn at granite quarry outside city

All the seven Covid crematoriums in the city have been running virtually round the clock for the past three weeks, and one of them had to be shut down for maintenance on Saturday.

Written by Darshan Devaiah BP | Bengaluru |
Updated: May 10, 2021 7:40:42 am
The quarry was flattened to set up the pyres. (Express Photo)

With the seven designated crematoriums in Bengaluru for the victims of Covid-19 no longer able to take the load of bodies, an isolated granite quarry has been identified on the outskirts of the city to carry out cremations.

Also, a long-unused burial ground in Tavarekere has been designated for Covid-19 burials, Bengaluru Urban District Commissioner Manjunath said.

“The granite quarry in Geddanahalli was recently converted into a crematorium to ensure that the dead get a dignified cremation. The quarry has been flattened, and we have set up about 15 iron platforms for the pyres,” Manjunath told The Indian Express.

Both Geddanahalli and Tavarekere are located to the west of Bengaluru, about 6 km apart. The new cremation facility at Geddanahalli, about 25 km from the city centre, has been receiving between 30 and 40 bodies from Bengaluru every day.

All the seven Covid crematoriums in the city have been running virtually round the clock for the past three weeks, and one of them had to be shut down for maintenance on Saturday. Karnataka reported 482 Covid deaths on Saturday, 285 of them in Bengaluru alone. On Friday, 346 deaths were recorded in the city, the highest daily toll in 15 months of the coronavirus pandemic. On Sunday, 281 deaths were recorded in Bengaluru; 490 in all of Karnataka.

The government has assigned a few workers to maintain the cremation facility at Geddanahalli, who are being helped by some volunteers to perform the rites. The converted granite quarry lacks several basic facilities that crematoriums need, said a worker who was assigned to Geddanahalli a fortnight ago.

“There are 25 iron platforms on which pyres can be lit,” a temporary worker who identified himself as Suresh, told The Indian Express. “I have worked in other local crematoriums earlier. The workload is heavy, more and more bodies are arriving every day,” he said.

While the government has provided drinking water and toilets for workers and relatives of the dead, there are as yet no shelters where people can wait, or a place to keep the logs of pyre wood, Suresh said.

Many of the workers at the crematorium have no prior experience of the job that few are willing to take up. With the seemingly endless stream of bodies, they end up working for 12-15 hours every day.

“I wanted to help people in these difficult times, so I decided to work there (at the Geddanahalli granite quarry cremation facility). The government provided PPE kits, but it was difficult to get access to food and water,” said a volunteer from Yelhanaka in Bengaluru who worked at the facility for 10 days, and who declined to be identified by name.

Prashanth, a temporary worker at the facility, said: “Over the last few days, many bodies have been arriving. We start at 7 am and work till late at night, cremating around 25-30 bodies. Like at the Bengaluru city crematoriums, ambulances are lining up here as well.”

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