Private First Class Vu Duc Thanh, 19, opens the door of a cold storage unit that holds the bodies of COVID-19 victims, so he and his colleagues can take the next coffin out for cremation in HCM City’s Cu Chi District.
|Soldiers of the Gia Dinh Regiment’s Special Task Force carry a coffin of a COVID-19 victim to a crematorium in HCM City’s Cu Chi District. — Photo: VNN|
Thanh works in Gia Dinh Regiment’s Special Task Force under HCM City High Command.
Thanh and his three colleagues, who wear white protective suits, solemnly carried the coffin out of the cold storage to the crematorium.
The cremation process of the victim’s body is complete after two hours. Thanh and his colleagues collect the ashes and the remains of the deceased. They are put into an urn and stored in a separate container.
Major Dong Anh Tuan, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Regiment, told e-newspaper Vietnamnet the remains of the deceased are handed over to the relatives of the deceased. They are usually scattered in a river.
Tuan said the special task force at the cemetery have been assigned this task since August.
Every day, the task force is divided into several shifts to fulfil the task of receiving, preserving and cremating the bodies of the COVID victims.
During the most severe period of the pandemic, 12 crematoriums in the cemetery were operating at full capacity. Both officers and soldiers of the task force worked without rest, he said.
Tuan said, “These were unforgettable days. The task force had 60 members, working all day and night, but we still could not handle all the bodies sent to us daily.”
“But we knew it is a sacred duty,” he said.
Before closing the lid of the coffin, the soldiers perform a number of burial rituals for the deceased. Although not as formal as at a funeral home, the soldiers try their best, Tuan said.
“Night or day, whenever a body arrives, the soldiers are ready to act quickly and compassionately,” he said.
Tuan said that at first, when the soldiers received and handled the deceased, they felt a little apprehension.
Tuan said that he carried out the first burial to stabilise the soldiers’ psychology.
“I reminded the soldiers that we are doing a sacred duty for our compatriots, who unfortunately lost their lives due to COVID-19,” he said.
After a while, his comrades felt less scared.
Private First Class Thanh said, “More than ever, I feel proud to be doing such meaningful work.”
Nguyen Thai Tai, another soldier on the task force, said he was a bit scared at first but less so now.
“It’s our responsibility to carry out this sacred task,” he said.
Although the city has passed the peak of the pandemic now, dozens of fatal cases of COVID-19 are still recorded every day.
The officers and soldiers of the task force still fulfil their duty, day in, day out.
Tuan said he and his colleagues are ready to celebrate Tet at work, if needs be.
Data from the Ministry of Health shows that HCM City reported 19,910 fatal cases of COVID-19 so far. On Tuesday, the city reported another 58 fatal cases of COVID-19.
Relatives of people who died of Covid-19 in Ho Chi Minh City were moved as the ashes of their loved ones were brought to their homes by local authorities.
Ho Chi Minh City will cover all expenses for funeral observances and cremation for those who die of Covid-19, which is estimated at about 17 million VND (around $730) per case.