Indonesian capital expands graveyards as COVID death toll mounts

Johan Purnomo and Tommy Ardiansyah
·1-min read

By Johan Purnomo and Tommy Ardiansyah

JAKARTA (Reuters) - As deaths from the coronavirus pandemic mount in Indonesia, the capital city's graveyards are expanding to keep up.

Struggling since last March to get the coronavirus under control in the world's fourth most populous nation, Indonesia has now surpassed one million confirmed cases and more than 30,000 deaths, the highest in Southeast Asia.

Ivan Nurcahyo, a spokesman for the Jakarta parks agency, said six new graveyard locations had been added in various areas across the city, with three already in use.

"In the past two weeks, and in the past few months, there has been a spike in a few areas where the burials have been carried out with (COVID-19) protocols," he said.

The rising death toll, which public health experts say is likely far higher than the official figures, meant COVID-19 victims could be buried in family plots to take up less space.

"At the moment, in other cemeteries, we offer an option called a 'stack system' where the victim can be buried together with their family member or relatives," he said, adding that the option only applied if a new corpse was "stacked" in a grave above a relative who had died more than five years ago.

At Rorotan cemetery in North Jakarta on Wednesday, bulldozers were busy clearing land for the additional plots.

"Part of the area is used as a public cemetery and we are also preparing a new large burial area (for COVID-19)," said Nurcahyo. "In Rorotan there is an area of around 25 hectares and we plan to allocate 8,000 square metres."

(Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Mike Collett-White)