Photos show the devastation of the COVID-19 humanitarian crisis in India, where the crematoriums have been burning for so long they have started to melt

  • This week, India set a grim world record by reporting more than 314,000 COVID-19 cases in one day.
  • The country is dealing with a devastating surge of the virus that is overwhelming its health system.
  • Photos show what the COVID-19 pandemic looks like in the world’s second most-populated country.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Only two months ago, India — the second-most populated country in the world — was reveling in its success of reining in the spread of the coronavirus.

But a new coronavirus variant is suspected of stoking a catastrophic and deadly second wave that is now overwhelming the country's hospitals and crematoriums.

K Srinath Reddy, the president of the Public Health Foundation of India, told the Financial Times: “Health systems weren’t better prepared for it this time around. Many people in the administration across the country did not expect that there would be a ‘this time around.'” 

“It was somehow presumed that we had passed the pandemic,” he added.

On Friday, India reported more than 332,000 coronavirus cases in one day — the highest ever recorded by a single country.

Since the start of the pandemic, the country has recorded more than 16 million cases and 186,000 deaths, according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University.

This means it has now overtaken Brazil, with the second-highest number of confirmed cases worldwide. The first remains the US.

Experts say the actual death toll is likely much higher than the official numbers due to backlogs at crematoriums and people dying before they can get to hospitals.

Source: Scroll India, Insider

The capital, New Delhi, is recording more new daily infections than any other Indian city, with the number of cases doubling every five days.

One in three people in Delhi is testing positive, according to BBC News.


The city announced a week-long lockdown on Monday, prompting many migrant workers to rush back to their villages.

India's healthcare system is crumbling under increasing pressure. Government officials said this week that New Delhi had run out of beds at hospital intensive care units.

Source: BBC News

Overrun hospitals have prompted the social media hashtag #COVIDSOS, which people use to share information about medical facilities that may still have space.

Source: Sky News

This distressing video shows numerous COVID-19 patients on stretchers dying outside hospitals or in ambulances because there is no space to take them in.


Hospitals across the country are also struggling with medical oxygen shortages. Some say they only have a few hours of supply left.

Source: Insider

Relatives of COVID-19 patients are becoming so desperate for oxygen cylinders that, in some cases, they've stolen them from hospitals.

Desperate relatives stole the cylinders from a storeroom at Damoh district hospital in Madhya Pradesh, a large state in central India.

One doctor complained to India Today: “Under such circumstances, it is becoming increasingly difficult for doctors and paramedic staff to perform their duties.” 

Source: Insider, India Today 

To add to the worsening crisis, an oxygen tanker at a hospital in Nashik, India, leaked earlier this week, killing 22 coronavirus patients.

Source: Insider

The unprecedented death rates are overwhelming the nation's crematoriums.

“No one in Delhi would have ever witnessed such a scene. Children who were 5 years old, 15 years old, 25 years old are being cremated. Newlyweds are being cremated. It’s difficult to watch,” Jitender Singh Shunty, who runs a makeshift crematorium, told Reuters.

Source: Reuters

As the crematoriums are overrun, people are turning t mass burials in makeshift facilities like parking lots.

One Delhi resident, Nitish Kumar, told Reuters this week that he was forced to keep his dead mother’s body at home for nearly two days because he couldn’t find any space for her in the city’s crematoriums.

He ended up cremating her in a parking lot adjoining a crematorium.

Source: Reuters

In the Indian state of Gujarat, gas and firewood furnaces at crematoriums have been running so long without a break that metal parts have begun to melt.

Source: Al Jazeera

Experts have blamed politicians for accelerating the surge by allowing mass gatherings for elections to take place.

Earlier this month, the government allowed the Kumbh Mela Hindu festival attended by millions to proceed and take a holy dip in the Ganges river.

Source: France24

"The government is not doing anything. Only you can save your family. You are on your own," one New Delhi resident told Reuters this week.

Source: Reuters

Scientists say the recent surge has been prompted by India's new variant, named B.1.617.

Little is still known about it, but some experts believe it is more infectious and vaccine evasive.

Source: Financial Times

Despite being the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, the country is also struggling to secure enough for its own population.

India has administered about 132 million vaccine doses so far,out of a population of 1.4 billion, the second-largest in the world

Source: Bloomberg 

The latest surge has prompted several countries, like the UK, to impose travel bans on India.

More than 130 cases of B.1.617  have so far been detected in Britain, according to Sky News.

Source: Sky News

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