Delhi Covid-19 cemetery running low on space as deaths mount

Stretching as far as the eye can see, the graves now run up to the boundary wall, with little space for more


Reuters April 17, 2021
A man is consoled by his relative as he sees the body of his father, who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), before his burial at a graveyard in New Delhi, India, April 16, 2021. REUTERS

NEW DELHI:

Beating the earth with his fists, a young man wails as the body of his father, who died after contracting COVID-19, is taken from an ambulance and lowered into a hastily-dug grave in India's capital New Delhi.

"You told me not to go outside but I didn't listen," he cries. "It's my fault," he shouts over and over. "I'm sorry."

The city's main Muslim graveyard for victims of COVID-19 is running out of space, according to authorities, as cases in Delhi and across the country run out of control following the relaxation of almost all curbs on movement last year.

India, a country of almost 1.4 billion people, has reported more than 200,000 new daily cases for the last two days, the highest in the world, with Delhi overtaking Mumbai as the country's worst-hit city.

People look at the body of a man, who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as another one is carried for burial at a graveyard in New Delhi, India, April 16, 2021. REUTERS
Health workers carry the body of a man, who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), from an ambulance for burial at a graveyard in New Delhi, India, April 16, 2021. REUTERS
People bury the body of a man, who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a graveyard in New Delhi, India, April 16, 2021. REUTERS
People bury the bodies of victims who died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a graveyard in New Delhi, India, April 16, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS
People bury the bodies of victims who died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a graveyard in New Delhi, India, April 16, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS

On Friday, a steady stream of ambulances arrived at the Jadid Qabristan cemetery on the outskirts of the ancient walled city, where a vast patch of wasteground was turned into a COVID-19 burial ground last year.

Stretching as far as the eye can see, the graves now run up to the boundary wall, with little space for more.

Head gravedigger Mohammad Shameem said he now has to turn bodies away, with space and staff at a premium.

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"Yesterday there were 19 bodies, but we can only handle 15," he said.

Families, many wearing little or no protective equipment, lift relatives into rough plywood coffins or carry the dead wrapped in a simple white sheet.

The family of COVID-19-positive Pappu Ali, 43, visited several private hospitals in the capital searching for a bed for him. He died after finally being admitted to a government hospital.

"There were not enough doctors," his uncle, Mehboob, said, after a yellow excavator filled the grave. "We couldn't even find water."

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