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Volunteers help gravediggers in Indonesia

by ACHMAD IBRAHIM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | July 29, 2021 at 4:05 a.m.
Used gloves belonging to a relative are left at the grave of a COVID-19 victim at a cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

BOGOR, Indonesia -- 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.

Residents pray near an ambulance carrying coffins of COVID-19 victims prior to a burial at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Residents pray near an ambulance carrying coffins of COVID-19 victims prior to a burial at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Workers in protective suits lower a coffin containing the body of a COVID-19 victim into a grave during a burial at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Workers in protective suits lower a coffin containing the body of a COVID-19 victim into a grave during a burial at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Workers in protective suits remove a coffin containing the body of a COVID-19 victim from an ambulance for burial at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Workers in protective suits remove a coffin containing the body of a COVID-19 victim from an ambulance for burial at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Workers in protective suits carry a coffin containing the body of a COVID-19 victim to a grave for burial at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Workers in protective suits carry a coffin containing the body of a COVID-19 victim to a grave for burial at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Workers in protective suits stand near an ambulance carrying the body of a COVID-19 victim as they wait for a grave to be prepared, at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Workers in protective suits stand near an ambulance carrying the body of a COVID-19 victim as they wait for a grave to be prepared, at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Relatives prepare a grave for a COVID-19 victim at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Relatives prepare a grave for a COVID-19 victim at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Relatives prepare a grave for a COVID-19 victim at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Relatives prepare a grave for a COVID-19 victim at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
A man takes a break after preparing a grave for a relative who died of COVID-19, at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
A man takes a break after preparing a grave for a relative who died of COVID-19, at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
A man gestures as he speaks to a family in protective suit after a burial of a relative at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
A man gestures as he speaks to a family in protective suit after a burial of a relative at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Jaidi, a cemetery worker, walks among graves of COVID-19 victims at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
Jaidi, a cemetery worker, walks among graves of COVID-19 victims at Cipenjo cemetery in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 14, 2021. With the numbers of death increasing from the latest virus surge in Indonesia which has crippled the healthcare system in Java and Bali, relatives and residents decided to volunteer to dig graves using their own hoes and shovels to help exhausting gravediggers. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

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