As the death toll of the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Ho Chi Minh City piles up, members of a special team under the city’s military feel the sorrow as they travel door to door, bringing the cremated remains of the deceased to their families.
On Sunday, a group of soldiers departed the Military Command of Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Thanh District, heading to a funeral house in Binh Tan District on a coach to receive urns of cremated remains.
By the time they arrived at the funeral house, the urns had been carefully packaged and grouped in accordance with their respective destination districts.
They were all placed behind an altar with burning incense sticks, a way of paying homage to the dead in Vietnamese funerals.
|A death certificate on an urn carrying the cremated remains of a COVID-19 victim in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Le Phan / Tuoi Tre|
|Major Le Trung Chanh (L) from the Binh Thanh District Military Command in Ho Chi Minh City looks at urns of ashes in a funeral house in Binh Tan District. Photo: Le Phan / Tuoi Tre|
Representing the cohort, Major Le Trung Chanh signed for the ashes, before the group loaded the 14 urns onto the coach.
In the past weeks, Ho Chi Minh City has emerged as one of the gravest COVID-19 epicenters in Vietnam, recording 3,321 out of the country’s total of 4,145 deaths.
Cremation of the deceased is being carried out at four venues in the city, including Da Phuoc Cemetery in Binh Chanh District, Phuc An Vien Cemetery in Thu Duc City, Thap Long Tho Cemetery in Cu Chi District, and Binh Hung Hoa Cemetery in Binh Tan District.
“I feel heavy-hearted every time I arrive here, seeing the ashes of my fellow Vietnamese packaged in urns,” Chanh said.
“Each table represents a district, so it feels easier seeing one with only a few boxes.
"Otherwise, it feels like I’m choked from holding back tears.”
|A box of ashes of a COVID-19 victim in Ho Chi Minh City is placed on the back seat of a car. Photo: Le Phan / Tuoi Tre|
|Boxes of ashes of COVID-19 victims in Ho Chi Minh City are seen in a funeral house in Binh Tan District. Photo: Le Phan / Tuoi Tre|
|Soldiers bring boxes of ashes of COVID-19 victims into the Military Command of District 10 in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Le Phan / Tuoi Tre|
During the rest of the journey, the boxes of ashes were placed on the back seats, being held by one soldier as he sat down on the car floor to make sure they stayed intact through bumpy roads.
As the car pulled up to the Military Command of District 10, half of the boxes were handed over to the servicemen there, who had already prepared an altar to tend to the victims’ souls before their families came to pick them up.
After being informed by authorities, Danh Tan Phat, a resident of District 10, showed up at the local military command to collect the ashes of his mother, whose COVID-19 infection was exacerbated by an underlying condition.
“I am at a loss for words at the moment," Phat spoke in tears.
"I just want to express my gratitude to local authorities for helping to bring my mom back.”