Mourners’ shock: too fat to be cremated
The shock revelation by an engineer has prompted management of the public crematorium, which carries out an average of 35 cremations a month, to turn away bodies deemed to be too large.
Mourners will have no choice but to pay extra to cremate loved ones at the private crematoria in Verulam and Clare Estate.
The furnace at the crematorium broke down on Monday and has still not been repaired.
The manager of the crematorium, Kevin Appalsamy, declined to comment.
Funeral parlour owners are outraged, urging the eThekwini municipality, which runs the oThongathi facility, to modernise the facility and install new furnaces.
While the municipality’s man in charge of cemeteries and crematoria, Parks, Recreation and Culture Unit head Thembinkosi Ngcobo said he was not aware of the ban, POST has learnt it was implemented after a report was compiled last month by Mike Robins from MGR Engineering.
In the report, which POST has seen, Robins states that the cremation of oversize cadavers must be avoided as the combustion chamber dimensions are inadequate to accept them.
Cremating these bodies can cause damage to the refractory brickwork and take time to burn as well as emit large volumes of smoke and harmful gases, he said.
“Due to the age of the crematory, the fat-burning capability of this unit is no longer effective.”
The engineer has also recommended that most types of caskets must not be burnt.
“Caskets of all dimensions with or without domed lids should not be incinerated. Under no circumstance should metal caskets be introduced into the combustion chamber as these do not burn and will damage the refractory within the chamber.
“These will also wear the refractory bed on insertion and extraction and increase the cremation time as the casket can only be removed after sufficient cooling which is time-consuming.”
Robins said that engineered wood or particle (chip) board caskets must be avoided as these take large amounts of energy and time to combust and emit large amounts of “rouge gases” and smoke.
“Under no circumstances should plastics, resin or fiberglass products be introduced into the combustion chamber as these will emit toxic gases which the crematory is not capable of destroying.”
Rajesh Ramkaran, from Tongaat Funeral Services, said the municipality needed to replace the furnaces.
“Mourners are coming to us and we have to tell them that their cremations have to be done in Verulam or Clare Estate because the deceased is too big to be cremated in Tongaat. Some people understand while others feel offended.”
The oThongathi facility is the cheapest place to have a cremation done, he said.
“Tongaat costs R670, Verulam is almost double the price starting at R1100 and Clare Estate is R1835, because it is a private facility. We also need to think about travelling costs for the family.
“If Verulam is fully booked, a family from Tongaat must travel all the way to Clare Estate to have the cremation done. This is not fair.”
Another parlour owner, who requested anonymity, said the bigger problem was the municipality. “The furnaces are old at the crematorium. What is the municipality doing to address this problem? People have to suffer because of the municipality’s lack of providing proper service delivery.”
He said burying was not an option anymore because of the issue of space and now cremations were becoming a problem.
“The municipality needs to have contingency plans.”
Ngocobo said none of the crematoriums in KwaZulu-Natal had a ban on overweight people, so he needed to investigate the issue at the Tongaat Crematorium.