Bodies wash up on the banks of India’s holiest river as coronavirus spreads nationwide

As the chaos of India’s coronavirus outbreak spreads across the country, infections are surging in states and rural areas with fewer resources, where sickness and death are much harder to track.

Published : 11 May 2021, 01:53 PM
Updated : 11 May 2021, 01:53 PM

One measure of the misery, medical workers say, is that poor people are disposing of bodies in rivers because the cost of cremations has shot up, according to The New York Times.

The authorities believe that is what happened when villagers in northern India discovered dozens of bloated corpses washed up on the banks of the Ganges River along the boundary of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, two states where the virus is raging.

Residents found the bodies on Monday evening in Chausa, a riverine village in Bihar. Stunned onlookers crowded around the remains, many with brightly coloured clothes sticking to them, floating in the shallows.

Some officials said that roughly 30 bodies had been discovered. Witnesses put the figure at more than 100, The New York Times reported.

Some people in the area have a custom of sending the remains of loved ones, weighted with stones, into the Ganges, the holiest river in Hinduism. But authorities suspect that many of these people died of COVID-19.

“I’ve never seen so many bodies,” said Arun Kumar Srivastava, a government doctor in Chausa, who said that it was likely that some were COVID-19 victims. In the past few days, he said, he has seen more and more people transporting dead bodies, sometimes on their shoulders.

“Definitely,” Dr Srivastava said, “more deaths are happening.”

The outbreak in India shows no sign of letting up, with the health ministry reporting more than 386,000 new cases and nearly 3,900 deaths on Tuesday.

A quarter of a million people have died nationwide from the virus, although experts believe that the true toll is much higher because of low testing levels and the large number of deaths in India that typically go unrecorded.

As Covid-19 deaths have overwhelmed funeral grounds, some crematories are charging five or 10 times the usual price for last rites. Kishan Dutt Mishra, an ambulance driver in the Chausa area, said that the price of wood had risen beyond what many families could afford.

Driving a seven-mile stretch along the Ganges between Chausa and another nearby town, Buxar, Mishra said that he saw body after body washed up along the river.

“I have never seen even a few bodies, let alone so many of them, lining the river all through this stretch,” he said.