Crematoriums in Nepal Overwhelmed Due to Increase in COVID-19 Deaths

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Crematoriums in Nepal, including one attached to the famed Pashupatinath Temple, have become overwhelmed by dead bodies of COVID-19 patients during the second wave of coronavirus in the Himalayan nation, according to a media report on Friday. The Ministry of Health and Population on Thursday reported 214 more deaths from COVID-19. The figure includes deaths of other days, it said.The total death toll now stands at 4,466. Total number of coronavirus cases in the country is 431,191.

According to Nepal Army sources, it has been managing more than 100 bodies a day in the Kathmandu Valley alone for the past few days. The daily death toll continues to be high even if the number of positive cases has not been rising significantly in the past one week, the Kathmandu Post reported. Pashupati crematorium had never seen so many bodies. The staff have been cremating bodies of COVID-19 victims day and night, the chief coordinator said.

"We burned 110 bodies all through the night, said Subash Karki, who was appointed chief coordinator of the electric crematorium run by the Pashupati Area Development Trust a year ago. Our machine No 1 is defunct and the other one can't burn all the bodies as it's old.

Unable to cremate all the bodies brought to the facility in the machine, the trust has been using 16 new platforms set up on the banks of Bagmati River and 35 in the open space inside the electric crematorium's compound to burn bodies on wooden pyres. Besides Kathmandu's three districts bodies from Dhulikhel, 60 km east of Kathmandu, have also been brought at Pashupati for cremation.

For the past two weeks, Karki has been overworked, having to cremate an overwhelming number of bodies that are brought to the facility. Previously, we received a maximum of 80 bodies, and it was 110 on Tuesday. We have only 35 staffers to burn them. We are also getting help from the Nepal Army, said Karki. If the flow of bodies increases at the same pace, there might be a shortage of wood to burn them.

Nearly 300 kg wood is needed to cremate a body on a pyre which costs around Rs 10,000. The electric crematorium only burns an average of 18 bodies in a day, meaning that the remaining ones need to be cremated on the wooden pyres, the report said. Ever since the first COVID-19 death was reported in the country last year, the government had assigned the Trust to burn the bodies of COVID-19 victims only in the electric crematorium and with the help of the Nepal Army.

“It's the Nepal Army that brings the bodies and handles them but once they are placed on the pyre, it's our staff who burn them all,” said Karki, who oversees everything from employees' work to the logistics required to burn the bodies. Nepal is currently witnessing more than 9,000 new COVID-19 cases daily, creating a health crisis in the country with limited medical facilities.

Nepal's more than 40 districts, including three districts of Kathmandu Valley, are under prohibitory orders for the past two weeks as the second wave of infection has hit the country.

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