“During the great flu epidemic of the turn of 1985 and 1986, more people died than crematoria could incinerate. At that time, there were three shifts. The coffins piled up in the yard and only gradually – it took a week or fourteen days – burned, “recalls Julius Mlcoch, a longtime director of the Prague Funeral Home (now part of the Prague Cemetery Administration – SPH), about what his predecessors told him about the critical situation. “Since then, there’s never been anything we can’t do here,” says the man who ran the funeral home from 1993 to 2019 and still helps out.
Oldřiška Dvořáčková, the silent magistrate of SPH, also confirms Mlčoch’s words. According to her, the capacity of the Prague crematoria is filled in the first week of January with about 85 percent of the total volume of burns: “And the capacity of the cooling facilities is still more than sufficient.”
The administration of Prague cemeteries cooperates with the central crisis staff of the capital and with the Ministry of Regional Development – it solves the situation of all institutions operatively. “In the period of November and December 2020, we recorded an increase of about eight to ten percent compared to several previous years. In these months, the annual mortality rate of statistics is always higher in the long run, “Dvoráčková pointed out.
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Unless the health situation worsens dramatically again, the Prague crematorium should not be overloaded even with the current wave of coronavirus infection. The crematorium in Strašnice, where it works in two eight-hour shifts, has burned an average of around 26 deaths per working day since the New Year, the crematorium in Motol, where there is one twelve-hour shift every day, of which about 18 burn another. at twelve o’clock.
Should the situation worsen, both crematoria could burn more than twice the current number in three-shift operation. “Normal cremation takes about 70 minutes. The capacity of the cremation facility is thus approximately seven bodies in eight hours, ”explains Mlčoch. According to him, a computer-controlled process cannot be accelerated. There are now two cremation facilities in Strašnice and Motol. Thus, a maximum of both crematoria would be able to handle approximately 84 burns per day. In addition, it could work on weekends if needed.
However, such numbers assume that there will always be enough staff to operate the facility. “But the problem would be if they got sick,” says Mlcoch. Incinerators must pass tests from the operation of both gas and cremation equipment. He who does not have them cannot do such work. Four cremation workers now take turns in Strašnice, three in Motol. There are only a few of them available for a possible break.
“Prohibition of opening the coffin. Covid. “
To minimize the likelihood that men operating cremation facilities will infect each other, they do not meet at work now. “The person who ends the service puts the coffin in the facility, writes it down and leaves. After a few tens of minutes, his colleague will come and then finish the cremation, “describes Mlčoch. The crematoria is also aware that they are living in a time of large-scale epidemic, with a paper stuck on about every fourth coffin: “Prohibition of opening the coffin. Covid. “
But otherwise the operator’s work is practically the same as always. The coffins with the bodies will either be transported to the area of the cremation furnaces on the lower ground floor of the Strašnice crematorium by an elevator from the ceremonial halls, or they will be transported there in carts from a nearby cold room. The operator then lifts them with the help of a so-called loading device and places a furnace about four meters long and 2.4 meters high.
The crematoria are full. The bodies will be transported between regions, said Hamáček
Cremation itself at a temperature of 950 to 1000 degrees lasts over an hour, if the body is not significantly oversized. Its operation can be operated by a small square view of the furnace. “The staff also keeps track of time, and only when everything is burned out does the cremation end,” describes Mlčoch. The cremated remains are then cooled for about 20 minutes before being placed in a cremator, a device that remotely resembles a washing machine. In it, several stone balls crush the bones into fine dust. In the end, about 4.5 liters of dust left in the body will hold a black urn. Each has its own gold number.
Urns with a number around 753,740 are used in the Strašnice crematorium these days. The six digits are not chosen at random. It shows how many bodies have been burned here since the opening of the crematorium in 1932.