Police in India’s capital Delhi have asked local authorities to identify more sites for Covid-19 cremations.
A second wave of the coronavirus is ravaging parts of India, overwhelming hospitals, morgues and crematoriums.
The total number of infections passed 18 million on Thursday, with 386,452 more recorded, the biggest one-day increase on record for any country.
There were another 3,500 deaths, with Delhi recording its highest single-day toll of fatalities at almost 400.
Oxygen and hospital beds remain in short supply and people continue to make pleas on social media for help.
One senior Delhi police officer said that people were having to cremate family members in crematoriums not designated to take victims of Covid.
“That’s why we suggested more crematoriums should be set up,” he told the NDTV news channel.
India’s central government is facing mounting criticism of its handling of the pandemic, and for allowing election rallies and religious festivals to go ahead.
But the health minister defended the government on Thursday, saying the country’s fatality rate was the lowest in the world and that oxygen supplies were “adequate”.
Harsh Vardhan told ANI news agency that oxygen was now “being made available from many sources” including those from abroad, and that storage and cryogenic tankers were also being prepared.
The first consignment of emergency medical supplies from the US has now arrived in India, including hundreds of oxygen concentrators, ventilators and other items.
Experts say lockdowns and vaccinations are the only way out.
On Saturday, all adults above the age of 18 in India will become eligible for vaccination. But although India is the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, it does not have enough stocks for the estimated 800 million people who will become eligible.
A number of states are reporting shortages of the vaccine.
India’s financial capital, Mumbai, home to more than 20 million people, has suspended its vaccination drive for three days due to “depletion of available vaccines”, the civic body said in a statement.
The municipal commissioner of Mumbai, Ashwini Bhide, said on Twitter that the city would reserve current stocks for people aged over 45 years old.