Over the past week, staff at two of the city’s electric crematoria – Thathaneri and Moolakarai – have been overloaded, facing a growing number of deaths from COVID-19.

While crematoria have witnessed long lines due to an increase in deaths from COVID-19, the state health report does not reflect the outbreak in Madurai.

According to the city’s health official, P. Kumaraguruparan, the bodies of patients with COVID-19 or those suspected of having contracted the infection are cremated in the electric crematoriums of Thathaneri and Moolakarai. People are only allowed to take the bodies of COVID-19 patients to their villages for cremation after obtaining a “ no-objection certificate ” from the respective health inspectors, he said.

Sources at Thathaneri Crematorium said there was only one functional gasifier. The second, recently repaired gasifier would be put into service after a trial run in a few days, a Company source said.

Currently, on average, 25 bodies of COVID-19 patients are treated every day at Thathaneri crematorium, compared to last week when 17 bodies were cremated. “About 40% of the bodies are residents of Madurai and the rest come from other neighborhoods,” said a source.

Likewise, there has been an increase in the number of bodies being treated in Moolakarai. According to a source, around ten bodies of COVID-19 patients are treated every day.

But there is a gap between the bodies cremated in these crematoria and the deaths recorded in the health report.

Dr Kumaraguruparan said patients from neighboring districts like Theni, Dindigul, Ramanathapuram, Sivaganga and Virudhunagar were coming to Rajaji government hospital and major private hospitals in Madurai for COVID-19 treatment. “To handle the extra number of bodies, it was requested that the two crematoria should operate 24 hours a day,” he said.

When asked if deaths from COVID-19 were underreported in the bulletin, he said RT-PCR tests were underway on all surgeries or other procedures in hospitals. “While they may test positive for COVID-19, the cause of death could be other reasons. In such cases, bodies are cremated according to the COVID-19 protocol, but these deaths may not appear as COVID-19 deaths in the bulletin, ”he added.