Australia’s High Commissioner to India has described the country’s second wave of COVID-19 as a “tsunami”.
The number of cases in India has surged by nearly 350,000 in the past 24 hours, the fourth-straight day of record peaks.
The rise in cases is overwhelming the country’s medical systems and has led to mass cremations in makeshift areas like carparks.
Barry O’Farrell said the nation’s worst fears about the virus were now being confirmed.
“[Last year] started well here in India, daily case numbers had trended down, positivity rates were low, the economy was returning to a new normal,” he told Nine Radio.
“Then bang, along comes a second wave which is more tsunami than ripple.”
Mr O’Farrell said there had been a jump in the number of Australians trying to get home amid the outbreaks.
“I think the list is still about 8000 and that’s after we’ve returned a total of 17,000 people since March of last year,” he said.
“So there’s a bit of a magic pudding about it but that’s not surprising given that this second wave is not only shocking people around the world but it’s certainly unsettled people in India.”
Last week, National Cabinet decided to temporarily reduce the number of repatriation and commercial flights from India by a third.
Mass cremations begin in Delhi
A mass cremation of victims who died from COVID-19 are seen rom the air above a crematorium ground.
Photos from New Delhi show bodies burning atop piles of wood in car parks amid mass cremations, after 306 people die of COVID-19 in 24 hours in India’s capital.
“[People are] extraordinarily desperate to get out, not just now, they’ve been desperate to get out the last fourteen months,” Joh Gwynn said.
“But obviously with the situation on the ground that need to get out of India has really escalated.”
Ms Gwynn said people who were booked to return to Australia have had their flights cancelled.
“There’s a real worry that an Australian citizen or an Australian permanent resident might die in India if they can’t get back to Australia,” she said.
“It’s so heartbreaking because only a couple of days ago DFAT announced eight flights to get people back from India and then just three days later we’ve had half of those DFAT flights cancelled.”