A photographer at the coronavirus pandemic’s new “Ground Zero” in Delhi, India, has revealed the response he gets from the grieving as the country’s death toll spirals out of control.
The BBC’s India correspondent, Soutik Biswas, shared a conversation this week with a photojournalist covering horrific scenes at crematoriums in India where bodies are being burned day and night.
Asked whether people had accused him of creating “death porn” by chronicling the unfolding devastation, he said the opposite was true.
“Grieving relatives of the dead come up and tell me at crematoria: ‘Please shoot. You guys should show to India and the world what is going on’,” he told Biswas.
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Of the mounting death toll and the disposal of bodies, the photographer said: “Everything is so overwhelming. I haven’t seen so much death and misery. The subjects of your pictures become part of you because they are seeking help. There’s a lot of raw emotion.”
Pictures from cremation sites across India have been shared throughout April amid reports that workers are being asked to carry on throughout the night.
The death toll is rising rapidly as the country’s healthcare system fails under the weight of so many new infections.
We saw heartbreaking images this week of men, women and children dying on the doorstep of hospitals at capacity and unable to admit them.
One woman begged for her 16-month-old girl to be treated while her husband pumped oxygen into her tiny lungs by hand.
The infant died 90 minutes after arriving at the hospital’s door.
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Filmmaker Uma Sudhim from Indian news media company New Delhi Television Ltd shared the distressing moments on Twitter.
“A mother wailing/pleading in front of King George Hospital asking for admission & treatment for her 16-month old baby girl who reportedly tested (positive for COVID-19); she says ‘we don’t want bed, just treat my baby’; baby died after 90 minutes at doorstep of (hospital),” she wrote.
“Father constantly pressing (ambulance) bag to keep his baby alive as he says baby first tested negative in rapid antigen test, then tested positive, she was denied treatment in hospitals & brought to biggest & govt hospital but died without treatment.”
India recorded a new global record on Friday, as it has almost every day this week. There were 385,000 new infections recorded in the past 24 hours and almost 3500 deaths, according to health ministry data.
More than 40 countries have committed to sending vital medical aid, particularly oxygen supplies, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters Thursday.
The promised supplies from Britain, Russia, UAE, Qatar, Australia and elsewhere include almost 550 oxygen-generating plants, more than 4000 oxygen concentrators, 10000 oxygen cylinders as well as 17 cryogenic tankers.
Hundreds of thousands of doses of COVID-19 treatment drugs as well as raw materials to produce vaccines and remdesivir were also being sent, he added.
“It is an unprecedented situation,” Shringla said.
More than 200,000 have now died from the virus in India, more than 45,000 of them in April, although many other nations have suffered far worse death rates on a per capita basis.
Brazil, with a population around a sixth of India, has recorded more than 400,000 deaths.
In many areas outside the main hot spots of New Delhi and Maharashtra, hospitals are running out of beds as relatives of the sick desperately hunt for medicines and oxygen cylinders.
Many crematoriums are facing shortages of wood because of the surge in deaths, with each pyre requiring between 300 and 400 kilograms of wood.
Some in the western city of Surat have started using wood that is not entirely dry and crop waste, pouring petrol on the pyre so that the wet wood burns properly.
Kamlesh Sailor, manager of the Kurukshetra Crematorium in Surat, said they were setting up four new wooden pyre stands.
“This will be in addition to the existing eight wooden pyre stands and five gas furnaces that are in use round the clock,” Sailor said.
— with AFP