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

india coronavirus pandemic
Relatives attend the funeral of a man who died from the coronavirus disease at a crematorium in New Delhi, India, on April 21, 2021. Adnan Abidi/Reuters
  • 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.

india coronavirus pandemic
Men dressed as Hindu deities wear face masks before going on a public awareness campaign against the coronavirus in Bangalore, India, on April 21, 2021. Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images

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.

india coronavirus pandemic
Relatives attend the funeral of a man who died from the coronavirus disease at a crematorium in New Delhi, India, on April 21, 2021. Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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.

india coronavirus pandemic
A suspected COVID-19 patient is seen in an auto-rickshaw, waiting for admission outside MMG hospital in Ghaziabad, India, on April 21, 2021. Sakib Ali/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

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.

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Relatives of a person who died of Covid-19 performing the last rites at Nigambodh Ghat crematorium on April 15 in New Dehli. Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

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.

india coronavirus pandemic
People bury the body of a person, who died of the coronavirus at a graveyard in New Delhi, India, on April 20, 2021. Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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 coronavirus pandemic
Migrant workers queue at a bus station to return to their villages after the Delhi government ordered a lockdown on April 19, 2021. Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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.

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Patients seen at the district government hospital in Eluru, Andhra Pradesh state, India, Sunday, Dec.6, 2020. AP Photo

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.

india coronavirus pandemic
Workers buiding a COVID-19 treatment facility at Sarusajai Sports Complex in Guwahati, Assam, India, on 21 April 2021. David Talukdar/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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.

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

india coronavirus pandemic
A worker refilling medical oxygen cylinders at a charging station in New Delhi, India, on April 20, 2021. Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Source: Insider

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

india coronavirus pandemic
Free oxygen cylinders being distributed by the Resident Welfare Association for coronavirus patients in New Delhi, India, on April 21, 2021. Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

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.

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A still from video footage of oxygen leaking from a tanker at the Zakir Hussain municipal hospital. Twitter

Source: Insider

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

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A view of Nigambodh Ghat crematorium in New Delhi, India, on April 21, 2021. Amal KS/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

"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 mass burials in makeshift facilities like parking lots.

India coronavirus
A drone photo shows a mass cremation of victims who died due to the coronavirus at a crematorium ground in New Delhi, India, on April 22, 2021. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

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.

coronavirus india pandemic
Cemetery workers wearing PPE kits sort logs of wood for the funeral pyres to perform the last rites of the patients who died of the coronavirus disease in New Delhi, India, on April 22, 2021. Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images

Source: Al Jazeera

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

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses a public meeting at Jerenga Pathar in the Sivasagar district of India's Assam state on January 23, 2021. Biju Boro/AFP via Getty Images

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.

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Naga Sadhus take a holy dip in the waters of the Ganges River on the day of Shahi Snan during the ongoing religious Kumbh Mela festival, in Haridwar on April 12, 2021. MONEY SHARMA/AFP via Getty Images

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.

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A critical patient who tested positive for COVID-19 is taken to an ICU unit at a COVID-19 care hospital in Kolkata, India, on April 22, 2021. Debarchan Chatterjee/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Source: Reuters

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

india coronavirus pandemic
Health workers prepare before performing the cremation of bodies who died of the coronavirus at a crematorium in New Delhi, India, on April 20, 2021. Amarjeet Kumar Singh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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

india coronavirus pandemic
A lady lays on the sidewalk in front of a COVID-19 hospital in Kolkata, India, on 21 April 2021. Debarchan Chatterjee/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Source: Financial Times

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

coronavirus india pandemic
A medical worker inoculates a man with a dose of the Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine at an indoor stadium in Guwahati, India, on April 22, 2021. Biju Boro/AFP via Getty Images

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

coronavirus india pandemic
A medical worker inoculates a woman with the jab of the coronavirus vaccine at a district hospital in New Delhi, India, on April 22, 2021. Anindito Mukherjee/Getty Images

Source: Bloomberg

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

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) listens as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (screen) addresses the opening session of the virtual US Leaders Summit on Climate from the Downing Street Briefing Room in London, England, on April 22, 2021. Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images

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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