Dozens of unidentified bodies — which locals suspect may be victims of the Chinese coronavirus — have washed up on the shores of the Ganges River in India’s eastern Bihar state in recent days.
“Nearly 30-40 dead bodies can be seen in the Ganga [Ganges River] and there are stray dogs roaming around. Yes, most of them are likely to be those of COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] victims,” Ashwini Varma, a resident of Chausa village in Bihar, told the Hindu newspaper by telephone on May 10.
Chausa villagers “first spotted several bodies floating along the bank of the river on Monday morning [May 10] and informed local authorities,” the Hindu reported.
“Officials who visited the site said the bodies might have floated in from adjoining districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh,” according to the newspaper. The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh borders Bihar to the west.
“It nearly costs ₹30,000-40,000 [$409-$545] to cremate a body. So the poor people prefer to push bodies into the river Ganga,” Varma claimed, referring to India’s surging coronavirus deaths over the past month. The country’s crematoriums have been operating beyond capacity, forced to burn bodies in makeshift funeral pyres constructed in parking lots and public parks.
“Stray dogs are devouring these bodies which could be of COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] victims. It will spread the virus as well,” Varma alleged.
Bihar government officials who visited Chausa village said there were “about 10-12 dead bodies floating in the river water,” according to the Hindu. The officials said the bodies “could have floated in from neighbouring districts of U.P. [Uttar Pradesh]” and acknowledged that they could be possible victims of the Chinese coronavirus.
“The dead bodies are bloated. They seem to have been in the water for at least 5-7 days. It needs to be investigated from where they’ve come. They could be from Varanasi or Allahabad,” Buxar district official K.K. Upadhayay told Indian media outlets on Monday. Allahabad, officially known as Prayagraj, and Varanasi are cities located in Uttar Pradesh.
“None of the deceased happens to be a resident of the [local Buxar] district,” A Chausa village official named Ashok Kumar told Indian media on May 10.
“How can we confirm whether the deceased were indeed COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] positive?” he asked.
“The bodies have decomposed and bloated but we’re ensuring they would be disposed of in [a] decent manner,” the village official said.
India’s Chinese coronavirus caseload has spiked since early April. A relentless flood of record-breaking new daily infections and deaths from the disease has pushed India’s healthcare system to the brink in recent weeks. Dire oxygen shortages across the Indian national capital, New Delhi, forced the city’s government to order local police to provide armed escorts for oxygen tankers in late April as they delivered fresh supplies of the gas to area hospitals. New Delhi is located in Delhi, India’s National Capital Territory, which borders Uttar Pradesh.