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Crematoriums operate beyond capacity

As the number of patients succumbing to COVID-19 infection continues to rise, crematoriums run by Tiruchi Corporation are under severe strain.

There are four crematoriums at Oyamari, Karumandapam, Konakarai and Ambedkar Nagar in Srirangam. Of them, the crematorium at Oyamari receives the maximum number of bodies.

As ambulances carrying the remains of COVID-19 victims contiuously make their way to the crematoriums, the facilities, particularly the one at Oyamari, have been running out of capacity over the last three weeks.

According to a victim’s relative , the waiting period for staff at the crematorium to accept a dead body hovers between three to four hours. At least two to three ambulances carrying the victims are seen waiting for their turn to hand over the bodies to staff members.

According to sources in Tiruchi Corporation, the crematorium at Oyamari receives on average six to seven bodies a day in normal circumstances. It has gone up to 17 to 18 over the last three weeks. Most of them are COVID-19 victims.

The second week of May witnessed a peak as the second wave of COVID-19 hit the city. A total of 132 bodies were cremated in the second week. The number was 120 in the third week. Up to Saturday, in the last week of the month, about 105 bodies were cremated at Oyamari alone.

The crematorium functions for eight hours a day and it takes about 80 to 90 minutes for a body to be cremated. It is not ideally suited for incinerating more than 10 bodies a day. But the unprecedented situation has forced the crematorium to incinerate to 20 a day.

There are instances of ambulances carrying more than two bodies at a time, thereby forcing the other ambulances to wait for hours. On Saturday, an ambulance loaded with three bodies waited for two hours to complete the formalities.

“We are really overburdened, and work overtime for the last three weeks. The furnaces run non-stop. We use our all resources to complete the formalities as quickly as possible,” a staff member of the crematorium at Oyamari said.

When contacted, Corporation Commissioner S. Sivasubramanian told The Hindu that the situation was being closely monitored. All four crematoriums in the city had been put into use to minimise the waiting period. It was observed that the number of deaths related to COVID-19 complications had begun to come down. The situation might witness drastic improvement within a week.

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