Bodies of COVID-19 victims lay burning on Tuesday in funeral pyres cramming New Delhi's sidewalks and car parks amid an explosion of new cases, as foreign aid began arriving to surging hotspot India in efforts to keep the pandemic at bay.
While rising vaccinations in the United States have allowed the country that was once the worst hit by coronavirus to relax its mask-wearing in some locations, India is suddenly in the overwhelming grip of the crisis.
Crates of ventilators and other oxygen devices from Britain were unloaded at a Delhi airport on Tuesday, the first emergency medical supplies to arrive in the country where infection and death rates are growing exponentially.
The United States has also pledged to export millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses, while President Joe Biden hailed the "stunning" progress his nation by contrast has made to get the pandemic under control.
The explosion in infections in India – 350,000 new cases were recorded there on Tuesday alone – has driven a surge in global cases to 147.7-million and the virus has now killed more than 3.1 million people worldwide.
In New Delhi, AFP images showed smoke billowing from dozens of pyres lit in a car park that had been turned into a makeshift crematorium.
"People are just dying, dying and dying," said Jitender Singh Shanty, who is coordinating more than 100 cremations per a day at the site in the east of the city.
"If we get more bodies then we will cremate on the road. There is no more space here," he said, adding: "We had never thought that we would see such horrible scenes."
Despite India's status as the "pharmacy of the world", the biggest producer of generic drugs has been unable to meet the demand for antiviral medication such as remdesivir.
Despite India's status as the "pharmacy of the world", the biggest producer of generic drugs has been unable to meet the demand for antiviral medication such as remdesivir
Many doctors say the drug is not essential for the treatment of COVID-19, but hospitals have been prescribing it anyway.
"This government has failed us so much that those who can normally survive also die," said one exhausted man, Vinod Kumar, as he waited in line for medication.
'We'll be there for them'
The US, France, Germany, Canada, the EU and the World Health Organization have all promised to rush supplies to India.
On Monday Biden announced the United States would send up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine abroad.
While Washington has not decided yet which countries will be the recipients, India appears to be a leading contender after Biden spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"India was there for us, and we will be there for them," Biden tweeted, referencing India's support for the United States when it was enduring the worst of its COVID-19 crisis.
France also said it would send eight oxygen production units, oxygen containers and respirators to India.
And the EU said the first shipment of aid from the bloc's member states to India would be delivered "over the coming days."
The initial assistance included 365 ventilators and 700 oxygen concentrators – machines that purify the air supply by removing nitrogen – from Ireland, 120 ventilators from Sweden, 58 ventilators from Luxembourg, 80 oxygen concentrators from Romania, and thousands of doses of remdesivir from Belgium and Portugal.
At the same time, many countries are shutting their borders to travellers from India.