Ebola crematorium painful reminder of crisis for Liberians

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Boys Town (Liberia), Mar 29: At the height of the Ebola epidemic, smoke from the cremation of bodies would darken the sky here by early morning. The incinerator rumbled like a mini-earthquake, shaking the ground and neighbors' emotions.

"Even the little ones, when they used to see the trucks pass with dead bodies on board, they would call our attention, saying: 'The people are bringing bodies again; We can see their hands and heads hanging.' Then we would lock our children indoors. It was very, very fearful," says Doris Reeves, who runs a small shop across from the crematorium's entrance.

Ebola

The frightening incinerator has been quiet for months now as Liberia has succeeded in stopping Ebola transmission nationwide. Yet for many, the horrors of the months when Ebola stalked the land are not forgotten and the building's mere presence is a source of trauma.

As Liberia marks the second anniversary on Wednesday of its first confirmed Ebola cases, many neighbors say they want to see the crematorium torn down so they can try to forget that terrible time.

Nearly 5,000 died in Liberia, more than half of them cremated here in Boys Town, 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the capital, Monrovia. "Community people want to break it down; but we have been talking to them to engage the government constructively," community chairman Albert Reeves said.

"But we cannot continue to control their emotions." For now, no decision has been made on what to do with the building, which sits on an acre of sandy land. The site is currently empty, its single black gate shut with a padlock.

Items of personal protective equipment, the masks and gloves responders used when handling bodies to try to avoid infection, are scattered about, dark reminders of the scenes that unfolded there. The crematorium had been built decades ago by Hindus from Liberia's Indian community. 

AP

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