Dozens of bodies of people believed to have died from COVID-19 have washed up on the banks of the Ganges River in northern India, officials said on Tuesday.
Residents in the area believe the bodies were dumped in the river because crematoriums have been overwhelmed or families could not afford funeral pyres.
District official Ashok Kumar who confirmed the incident said about 40 corpses washed up in Buxar district near the border between Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, two of India’s poorest states.
“We have directed concerned officials to dispose of all bodies, to either bury or cremate them,” Kumar told the Indian news agency.
The frightening discovery was said to have sent shock waves among the locals as well as on Indian social media, where users commented about the rising COVID-19 deaths in rural India.
“Some 35-40 bodies were spotted, many of these could be COVID-19 victims. On normal days, we see two to three such bodies on this stretch of river, but the number is high because of the deadly outbreak,” local official Naval Kant told DPA news agency.
But some media reports said the number of corpses could be as high as 100.
The reports quoted other officials as saying some of the corpses were bloated and partially burned and could have been in the river for several days.
Local media reported there was panic in Chausa and neighbouring towns about possible infection from the bodies and the river water.
During the weekend, several partially-burnt bodies were spotted in the Yamuna river in Uttar Pradesh’s Hamirpur town, with opposition leaders claiming the bodies were proof that a substantial number of coronavirus deaths have gone unregistered.
According to official statistics, approximately 4,000 people are currently dying from coronavirus every day in India and the total death toll is almost 250,000, but citing anecdotal evidence from crematoriums, many experts believe that the actual daily number could be several times higher.
By Isaac Dachen
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