Volunteers risk lives to collect bodies of COVID-19 victims in India

·1 min read

New Delhi — An ambulance of volunteers is dispatched, but it's too late for the living. The volunteers are risking their lives to collect the bodies of those who died at home and whose families couldn't afford to cremate them.

COVID-19 has killed a record 4,200 people in India in just 24 hours, according to a government tally. But experts say the daily toll could be closer to 25,000. When people die at home, they almost never get counted in the official death toll in India.

Bram Singh, a 65-year-old retired police officer, was one of the those who died at home after he couldn't get a bed in the city's hospitals, which are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. A group of volunteers, who allowed CBS News to follow them, collected his body for cremation.

Volunteers in New Delhi collect bodies of those who died from COVID-19 and whose families could not afford cremation.  / Credit: CBS News
Volunteers in New Delhi collect bodies of those who died from COVID-19 and whose families could not afford cremation. / Credit: CBS News

At a makeshift crematorium, bodies have been burning nonstop, says Jitender Singh Shunty, the leader of the volunteer group. He said more than 500 bodies have been cremated in the last three to four weeks. He said he's not afraid of dead bodies, but added that it's sad to see so many dying, especially the young.

As infections and the death toll continue to soar, a pile of firewood for cremations is stacked 10 feet high and stretches longer than a football field.

With the help of the volunteers, the bereaved can lay their loved ones to rest — something volunteer Raman Jocant begs the world to watch. "This is an example for them. If somebody come [to the] cremation ground and spent one day with us, they will never, never ever doubt it again," he said.

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