Last two cremators break down

2010-08-20 00:00

AT least three grieving families were denied the right to bid farewell to their loved ones with dignity after the two remaining cremators at Mountain Rise Cemetery broke down on Wednesday.

A family was traumatised when one cremator broke down in the middle of a cremation at about 2.30 pm on Wednesday. The crematorium staff had to use wood, when the gas-fired operation failed. The cremation was completed only well after 7.30 pm that night.

Yesterday morning a funeral entourage was turned away. An embarrassed undertaker, who did not want to be named, had to take the body back to the parlour and make arrangements to get the cremation done in Durban.

Family members of a funeral entourage that drove all the way from Greytown to the Mountain Rise crematorium were devastated when they were turned away. They questioned why the municipality did not inform families who had booked for cremations about the breakdown so that they could make alternate arrangements.

Municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma apologised to the families. He said the ignitors on both cremators had broken down. They are being fixed and are expected to be in working order by today.

The city’s crematoriums have been dogged by controversy for years. The city has three cremators: one does not function, another was upgraded and the third was replaced by a fully-automatic R1 million cremator in 2007. Three years later, the new system that was installed following a number of breakdowns has also ceased to function. City undertakers who have long waged a battle with the municipality over the faulty cremators believe this is one more area that the new administration needs to investigate and rectify.

In 2008, following more crematorium woes, expert Willie Fern told The Witnessthat the cremator that was installed should never have been bought. He said it takes a long time to burn and uses twice as much gas, and that Durban’s Clare Estate crematorium used a similar model as a back-up cremator.

Fern said Msunduzi Municipality has not always used experts to carry out repairs.

He declared that the biggest problem is not having technically competent staff to operate the furnaces because they are highly specialised items of equipment that need to be handled with care.

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