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Hindu priest in Plano loses family members in South India as COVID-19 surges

President Joe Biden announced Sunday that the U.S. will send supplies, including PPE and medical equipment, as India sets pandemic records for new cases.

PLANO, Texas — As India fights a devastating second wave of the coronavirus, thousands of people a day are dying and the healthcare system is overrun. 

Many temple leaders in the Dallas area are hearing first-hand about the pain and struggle from relatives in India. 

Priest Venkata Adi Kameswararao Cavuturi, who runs the Sri Lakshmiganapathy temple in Plano, spoke to WFAA from Hyderabad. 

Cavuturi is heartbroken by what he’s seeing in India, as the COVID-19 cases, and death rates continue to rise, stressing already overloaded systems.

On Sunday, President Joe Biden announced the U.S. will step in to help India by sending supplies.

The need for supplies, such as PPE, oxygen and oxygen tanks, and ventilators, is only growing. For a fourth straight day, India set a worldwide record for new cases on Sunday with 349,691.

Cavuturi has seen the heartbreaking images of cremations on the streets, as crematoriums across the country are overrun. Hospitals across India are also overflowing, with people are being turned away.

Credit: AP Photo/Altaf Qadri
Multiple funeral pyres of those who died of COVID-19 burn at a ground that has been converted into a crematorium for the mass cremation of coronavirus victims, in New Delhi, India, Saturday, April 24, 2021, as a second record surge has brought India's tattered healthcare system to its knees.

“There is a lot of scared situation here, and everybody is worrying,” said Cavuturi.

Cavuturi flew to his native Hyderabad in South India to pick up his 7-year-old son.

“He’s studying here and the situation is not good here, that’s why I want to bring him back,” said Cavuturi.

Biden announced that in addition to sending materials, the U.S. also plans to share millions of doses of AstraZeneca once it receives emergency authorization.

Around 10 million doses are already done, with millions more expected in the coming weeks.

“He’s helping in India. The vice president should think about this country, she’s one of us,” said Cavuturi.

For Cavuturi, the virus hit close to home.

“COVID can kill anyone,” said Cavuturi.

He said two of his family members, ages 35 and 46, recently died of the coronavirus.

“They went to the hospital, and literally, the lady in my family died because she doesn’t have oxygen,” said Cavuturi.

Cavuturi showed us what his street looks like. It was quiet due to the curfew in place, but come morning the streets will be packed again.

The hardest part, Cavuturi said, is that people can't stop working because they can't afford to shut down.

“This is a country that can’t afford a great lockdown. It’s a lose-lose, either COVID or hunger,” said Cavuturi.

Reporter Malini Basu shared her personal experience about her relatives in India. Two cousins in the same household tested positive for the virus, while other relatives got their first dose of Covishield. One month later, however, they still can’t get their second dose of the vaccine.