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Karachi gravediggers fear for their lives as coronavirus deaths rise

SAMAA | - Posted: Apr 1, 2020 | Last Updated: 2 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Apr 1, 2020 | Last Updated: 2 months ago
Karachi gravediggers fear for their lives as coronavirus deaths rise

Photo: AFP

Gravediggers in Karachi are worried about their safety as coronavirus deaths continue to rise. So far, twenty-five people have died of which six deaths were reported in Karachi.

“Everybody’s life is very dear to them,” said Muhammad Sultan, who has been working at Karachi’s North Nazimabad Muhammad Shah Graveyard for the last 35 years.

Sultan was present when a coronavirus victim was buried in his graveyard last week.

An Edhi ambulance brought the body in a tightly-covered coffin along with a few people. “I was standing at a distance when the body arrived;” he said, adding that two other gravediggers took the body and placed it near a grave.

The gravediggers held the body with their bare hands and buried it, Sultan shared. No safety precautionary measures were taken by anyone, he added.

“We burned our clothes and slippers after the burial for our own safety,” he said.

A total of seven gravediggers work at the cemetery, but after that day four of them, including the two who buried the body, have stopped come to work, Sultan remarked.

They are not coming because they got scared after the burial of the coronavirus victim, he said. “We have families too and we are worried for our lives.”

The government did not provide us with any safety kits or money for the burial, he claimed. It will become very difficult for us to perform funeral duties if the situation remains the same, he added.

Sultan said that they have to dig more for the graves of coronavirus victims.

“Usually, the graves are three-feet deep and two-feet wide but for the coronavirus patient we had to dig a grave with a depth of 7.5 feet and it was four-feet wide,” he explained.  

Sultan said that they have increased the price of burial from Rs3,000 to Rs5,000 as the police have stopped labourers from bringing bricks and sand on their sands to the graveyards.

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, on the other hand, has said that they have already informed the Sindh and federal governments about the situation of graveyards.

KMC Graveyard Director Iqbal Pervez told SAMAA Digital that they have informed the Pakistan Disaster Management Authority and provincial government about the safety of gravediggers. No practical steps, however, have been taken yet, he added.

“The KMC cannot handle the situation on its own because of a lack of resources,” Pervez said, adding that they need the help of the federal and Sindh governments.

Five graveyards in Karachi has been designated for coronavirus related burials. These include the Muhammad Shah Graveyard in North Karachi, Surjani Town Graveyard in Sector 6-A near Northern Bypass, Mowach Goth Graveyard on Hub River Road, Korangi No 6 Graveyard and Gulshan-e-Zia Graveyard in Orangi Town area. 

KMC authorities have requested the PDMA to share burial kits, chlorine, gloves, masks and other related items to bury the victims.

The city government is working on streamlining the funeral procedures, he added.

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