Agra (UP), Apr 22 (PTI) Long, serpentine queues of people awaiting the cremation of their dear ones has become a common sight at various crematoriums in the city amid the coronavirus pandemic outbreak.

According to officials, there has been an increase in the number of bodies brought to the crematoriums as compared to the pre-COVID times.

Family members of coronavirus victims claimed that they have to wait for three to four hours to complete the last rites of their deceased relatives as around 80 to 100 bodies are brought to the crematoriums everyday as against 10 to 20 bodies before the pandemic outbreak.

Chief Medical Officer, Agra, R C Pandey, however, said the rising deaths may also be due to non-COVID reasons like heart failure, chest infections, among others.

The management committees of the crematoriums in the city have started issuing coupons and tokens to people to avoid inconvenience to them.

Tajganj cremation centre near Taj Mahal is one of the main crematoriums of Agra where electric and non-electric centres function. Shri Chhetra Bajaja committee manages and takes care of the premises.

Sanjeev Kumar Gupta, in-charge, Shri Chhetra Bajaja committee said, "The situation is worsening these days. Around 35-40 bodies are brought to the electric crematorium at Tajganj everyday these days. Over 50 bodies reach the main crematorium daily." "In normal days (pre-COVID times), 10-15 bodies used to be cremated at the electric centres, and 10-20 bodies at non-electric centres. The numbers (of bodies) have gone up since the outbreak of coronavirus,” he said.

Gupta said the crematoriums are now issuing tokens to people waiting for conducting the last rites of their relatives.

"To avoid inconvenience to family members, we are issuing tokens to them for conducting the last rites. Due to the heavy load, we have to ask the people to wait for two to four hours as there are only four electric furnaces at the electric crematorium at Tajganj,” he said.

A caretaker at a crematorium said it was the first time in his life that he had seen such a rush at the cremation centres.

“I have been working here for about 40 years. This is the first time I have seen such a large number of bodies being brought to the cremation centres,” he said.

He also said that all available empty spaces at the cremation centres, be it galleries, big grounds or other areas, are being used for cremating bodies.

Meanwhile, Agra Municipal Commissioner Nikhil Teekaram Funde assured the people of appropriate arrangements at the cremation centres in the city.

According to the data released by the district magistrate office on Thursday, 208 COVID-19 deaths have been reported in Agra since March last year and five deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.

There are 15,602 COVID-19 cases in the city, while active cases stand at 3,746, it said.