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Dass Funeral Home Director Carlyle Mulchan at his office at Maraj Avenue, Marabella.

KEVON FELMINE

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With the Government relenting on its ban on open-air pyre cremations for COVID-19 victims, Dass Funeral Home hopes to carry out its first cremation site funeral by Sunday.

Managing Director Carlyle Mulchan told Guardian Media the company had over 30 bodies at its Marabella branch yesterday.

With the resumption of funerals for COVID-19 victims at cremation sites, he said Dass could clear its storage in a week or two.

Mulchan said the Shore of Peace at South Oropouche could host 10 cremations per day, while the Caroni Cremation Site can do seven and the Waterloo Cremation Site, five. There are also sites in Mafeking in Mayaro and Felicity in Chaguanas.

Mulchan says bodies continue to pile up at funeral homes across the country because of the high COVID-19 death rate. In December, the company installed a 24-foot reefer container with a capacity of just over 40 corpses. It came as the demand for crematorium services created a pile-up.

Mulchan said it was commendable that the government took the responsible approach. However, he believes it was a bit late as the science supported that open-air pyre cremations could work safely. He said it was unfortunate that the matter had to reach the court when it only needed the stroke of a pen.

“We would have eliminated this whole issue if this was implemented earlier. You see, we were looking at it as a Hindu/East Indian issue when the fact is that it was a national issue where we give the national community the opportunity to choose a method of disposal rather than the crematorium. We definitely could not handle the situation, but burials are easier. Now we are seeing that the cemeteries are being filled,” Mulchan said.

Not only will people not wait weeks to say goodbye to their dead, Mulchan said it will also knock off between $5,000-$6,000 in crematorium expenses. It is an expense that many families struggled to pay since the government implemented the ban. Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, Spiritual Head Satya Anand Ashram in Aranguez, is questioning how the State will compensate those who paid exorbitant fees. Maharaj said the State has not yet proven why it stopped open-air pyre cremations.

“The WHO has never recommended the banning of open-air cremation and recognising cultural and religious practices. Today we have more COVID-19 deaths than any other time, yet the Government would have us believe it is in their benevolence that we find relief when, in fact, they have inflicted untold hardship on the Hindu Community. Meanwhile, rivers remain closed for religious purposes,” Maharaj said.

He welcomed the removal of the ban, saying that the Hindu and other communities that prefer open-air pyre cremations as the preferred means of disposal of their deceased could now breathe a collective breath of relief.

He thanked the Government for listening to the voice of the people.

Now that open-air pyre cremations for COVID-19 victims might ease storage issues, is there a need for the proposed mass storage facility for COVID-19 corpses?

The Association of Funeral Professionals created a stir when it chose Freeport as the home for this facility.

However, the association withdrew the proposal after rejection from the residents.

Association president Keith Belgrove said yesterday that there was no update. Mulchan believes a facility to house only COVID-19 corpses is a good idea.

Hospital mortuaries are under pressure with COVID-19 corpses, and Mulchan believes this storage site would help protect the lives of the hospital staff, mortuary attendants and their families.