Shocking photos have captured mass cremations in India as bodies pile high from a deadly wave of coronavirus ripping through the country.
Pictures show rows of bodies and pyres burning while mourners say goodbye to loved ones, highlighting the sheer scale of human loss from the disease in India over the last few days.
Mass gatherings, more contagious variants and low vaccination rates have spurred on the huge outbreak in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, the health ministry reported another 2,771 deaths in the proceeding 24 hours, which averages out at roughly 115 people dying from coronavirus every hour.
The latest fatalities has now pushed the country’s death toll to 197,893 – only behind Brazil, Mexico and the US.
India also counted 320,000 new cases on Tuesday after a five-day streak of recording the largest single-day increases in any country through the pandemic.
But experts say these death and case figures are likely to be an undercount.
In some cities, bodies are being cremated in makeshift facilities in parks and parking lots, and television channels showed bodies crammed into an ambulance in the western city of Beed as transport ran short.
Some areas have also been hit by a dire shortage in oxygen supplies and overwhelmed hospitals have had to turned away coronavirus patients.
To help with the shortage of beds, hotels and railway coaches have been converted into critical care facilities, but experts say the next crisis will be a lack of healthcare professionals.
Tensions have also been heightening with relatives of a recently deceased COVID-19 patient attacking staff with knives at a hospital in the southeast of the capital New Delhi, injuring at least one person, a hospital spokeswoman said.
A video posted on social media showed several people brawling with guards at the same hospital.
Watch: COVID-19: People dying on pavement as coronavirus crisis stretches India’s healthcare system
Vital medical supplies from countries around the world began to reach India on Tuesday.
A shipment from Britain, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, arrived in New Delhi.
France is also sending eight large oxygen generating plants while Ireland, Germany and Australia are sending oxygen concentrators and ventilators.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was working to deliver 4,000 oxygen concentrators to India.
India’s first “Oxygen Express” train also pulled into New Delhi on Tuesday, carrying about 70 tonnes of oxygen from an eastern state.
However, the crisis has not abated in the city of 20 million – the epicentre of the latest wave of infections.
Delhi’s chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said: “The current wave is extremely dangerous and contagious and the hospitals are overloaded,” adding that a large public area in the capital will be converted into a critical care hospital.
Meanwhile, Dr K. Preetham, an administrator at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, said the oxygen shortage remained a big concern.
“Because of the scarcity (of oxygen), we are forced to put two patients on one cylinder,” he said.
“Many people rush to the hospital, even though home-based care monitoring … can be managed very safely,” its spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, told Reuters in an email.
While cases seem to have decreased compared to the last few days, health economist Rijo M John, of the Indian Institute of Management in the southern state of Kerala, said the fewer confirmed infections were largely due to a drop in testing.
“This should not be taken as an indication of falling cases, rather a matter of missing out on too many positive cases,” he said.