Wearing hazmat suits and masks, gravediggers at the Cipenjo Cemetery in Bogor on the outskirts of Jakarta say they've lost track of how many graves they dug. Despite working late into the night, the bodies of COVID-19 victims keep coming in hearses.
For the past two weeks, they've put into earth more than 10 bodies a day, up from two previously — a sign of a devastating surge ripping through the Southeast Asian nation, which is now Asia's hot spot with over 80,000 COVID-19 fatalities and more than 3 million confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
So they turned to volunteers to help them out.
“The relatives of the dead asked the community leaders for help to find gravediggers. Because it will be riskier if they wait for a long time at the cemetery," said Jaya Abidin, who answered the call with some of his neighbors.
They recently helped bury four residents from their neighborhood, who all died within a week.
Government figures show more than 1,000 people died each day for the past week, including a record 1,565 on Friday. The pace of vaccination remains slow, with only 6.3% fully vaccinated.
The volunteers use their own hoes and shovels brought from home. Other graveyards often use heavy machinery to meet the needs.
“It would be better, as the number of people who died keeps increasing, if the government can pay attention by lending digging equipment,” Abidin said.
Sometimes, he said, even with the gravediggers and volunteers working together, the line of bodies can stretch into the night.