Crematorium furnaces in Gujarat melting due to surging COVID-19 deaths

Surat: Metal structures of furnaces at some crematoriums in Surat have started melting or breaking as they are being used round-the-clock due to the rush of bodies amid the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said on Tuesday.

Since the past one week, around 16 gas-based furnaces at the Kurukshetra Crematorium and Ashvini Kumar Crematorium here in Gujarat are operating 24X7 to cremate bodies, hence maintenance issues are cropping up, they said.

The metal frames of gas furnaces, on which the bodies are kept, and chimneys are melting or breaking because of overheating and excessive use, the official said.

In the last couple of days, Surat city reported 18 to 19 deaths due to COVID-19 every day.

“Before the coronavirus outbreak last year, around 20 bodies were cremated at the Kurukhsetra Crematorium every day.

Now, there is a sudden rush of bodies. At present, we are handling about 100 bodies per day,” Kamlesh Sailor, president of a trust which manages the crematorium, told PTI.

Sailor said six gas furnaces at their facility are now being operated 24 hours and hence, the temperature there reaches up to 600 degrees Celsius.

As a result, the iron frames and chimneys have started melting and breaking due to the heat, he said, adding that mechanics are being called to replace those parts.

The Ashvini Kumar Crematorium, the oldest such facility in Surat, is also facing similar issues and its management has decided to increase the number of traditional wood pyres to manage the rush of bodies in case of maintenance issues in the gas furnaces.

“We operate 10 gas furnaces and three wood pyres. Earlier, we used to cremate about 30 bodies every day. Now, the number has gone up to 90-95,” the crematorium’s manager, Prashant Kabrawala, said.

Since the furnaces are being operated round-the-clock, some of their iron frames have melted due to overheating. Some pipes and chimney joints have also broken because of the excessive heat generated in the facility, he said.

“We recently installed heat-resistant bricks in two of our furnaces, which were shut for some time. Our maintenance engineers are visiting the crematorium almost daily as we are facing these issues every day,” he said.

Kabrawala said they have decided to add two more wood pyres in the wake of these frequent maintenance issues.