Overloaded Chongqing Crematory Recruits Day Workers Amid Surge of Deaths in Recent Flare-Up

Overloaded Chongqing Crematory Recruits Day Workers Amid Surge of Deaths in Recent Flare-Up
A health worker checks on a Covid-19 coronavirus patient while transporting the individual through the Chongqing No. 5 People's Hospital in China's southwestern city of Chongqing on December 23, 2022. (NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Sophia Lam

China’s southwestern megacity Chongqing is experiencing a surge of infections of COVID amid the recent flare-up.

More than 5 million people in the city, accounting for over 15 percent of its total population, have been infected by the pandemic in the first 20 days of December, according to leaked notes of a virtual health meeting of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) last Wednesday.

Online video clips reveal long lines of hearses waiting outside crematories of China’s southwestern economic hub. The Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times reached out to several crematories on Dec. 23.

The Shiqiaopu Crematory, located in the downtown district of Shapingba, is operating at full capacity, according to an employee of the crematory.

“We are fully booked; there is no vacancy now,” the staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Epoch Times, “Mourning events are canceled and bodies are directly cremated.” He said only cremation service is offered to hasten the process as bodies are already piled up in the crematory. He didn’t give a specific number of the corpses.

According to a China search engine Baidu, the Shiqiaopu Crematory is a large-scale funeral parlor that has 12 advanced furnaces. Its annual cremations are about 10,000 bodies. The typical cremation time is from 25 to 40 minutes, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA). Based on the number of furnaces and the time taken for each cremation, the crematory burns over 400 bodies per day if it works at its full capacity.

A video clip obtained by The Epoch Times shows a long queue of vehicles outside the crematory. A resident can be heard saying in Chongqing dialect that the dead are mostly seniors infected by COVID. “It takes hours to unload [the corpses]. Friends, look, the hearses have lined up in a long queue,” the man said in the video.

A resident who lives near the Shiqiaopu Crematory told The Epoch Times on Dec. 25 that the crematory has been recruiting temporary workers to carry corpses.

“Hearses have formed long queues outside the crematory, and many bodies have been piled up inside. The crematory is now urgently recruiting temporary workers to carry bodies, who are paid 200 to 500 yuan ($29 - $72) per day,” the resident said. She only gave her surname as Li in the phone interview.

Yubei District Crematorium in the north of the city is also operating with an overload.

“The cold storage cabins and the mourning halls have all been used up. There is a long queue waiting for cremations,” an employee of the Yubei crematory told The Epoch Times on Dec. 23.

“All the crematories in Chongqing are very busy because there are many deceased people recently,” the staffer said.

He added that his employer has nine furnaces. “Workload has increased significantly. But we can manage to cremate all the bodies that are sent in every day,” he said.

A video clip shows a long queue of hearses outside Jiangnan Crematory in Nan’an District. A man is heard saying in the video that there was only one long queue the previous day and that there are two queues now, which are “four kilometers (2.5 miles) long.”

The Epoch Times wasn’t able to verify the authenticity of the video above, which claims to be outside Jiangnan Crematory.

Locals are disappointed by the local government which hasn’t been able to handle the pandemic control in an effective way, Li said in the interview.

“In the countryside, the elderly people usually live by themselves because the young people have left to work in the urban areas or other places. They have no medicines at home. Once infected, they have no one to take them to hospitals, and they die at home.”

Li said that people living in the urban city of Chongqing lack cold and fever medicines.

“When zero-COVID policies were imposed on us, we couldn’t buy those medicines from pharmacies, which were taken off the shelves. If you were sick with COVID, you were pulled to makeshift isolation facilities. So now after the lifting of the zero-COVID measures, there is no stock of medicine at all either in the pharmacies or in our homes,” Li blasted the government for its stringent control of medicines.

The city with over 30 million residents urges people with mild symptoms to continue working, according to Li. Almost all her friends have been infected by the pandemic.

“I can hear coughs all around me,” Li said.

“When you are healthy and don’t need the government, it chases you and forces you with vaccination and PCR testing. But when you are infected by COVID and need antipyretics, it is not there,” she cited the words from a trending post on Chinese social media platforms.

Lin Cenxin and Yi Ru contributed to this report.
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