Bodies of coronavirus victims have reportedly washed up in rivers in India as the country’s Covid-19 battle continues to spiral out of control with crematoriums and hospitals struggling to keep up.
Officials on Monday (local time) told the BBC about 40 bodies washed up on the banks of the Ganges in Buxar district in the country’s north.
Local official Ashok Kumar said many believe the bodies washed up from nearby Uttar Pradesh and would be either cremated or buried.
It’s also believed the bodies, some of which were found partially burned, may have been washed down the river from riverside cremation ceremonies for coronavirus victims, NDTV reported.
There are further suggestions some families are either running out of money, or wood or both and have been left with little choice but to place their dead loved ones into the river.
Buxar sub-district officer KK Upadhyay told Deccan Herald the “bloated bodies” have been in the river for about six to seven days.
“It’s a matter of investigation how and from which town in UP (Uttar Pradesh) they came over here,” he told the paper.
Locals have complained dumping the bodies in the river “is the height of insensitivity”.
Resident Kameshwar Pandey told AFP the find is “really shocking”.
Mr Kumar told Tribune India it is yet to be determined if all the bodies are people who died from coronavirus as they “have started decomposing”.
Indians warned against using cow dung as Covid cure
India has more than 22.6 million cases of coronavirus resulting in more than 246,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Experts say actual numbers could be five to 10 times higher, and citizens across the country are struggling to find hospital beds, oxygen, or medicine, leaving many to die for lack of treatment.
In the state of Gujarat in western India, some believers have been going to cow shelters once a week to cover their bodies in cow dung and urine in the hope it will boost their immunity against, or help them recover from, the coronavirus.
In Hinduism, the cow is a sacred symbol of life and the earth, and for centuries Hindus have used cow dung to clean their homes and for prayer rituals, believing it has therapeutic and antiseptic properties.
"We see ... even doctors come here. Their belief is that this therapy improves their immunity and they can go and tend to patients with no fear," Gautam Manilal Borisa, an associate manager at a pharmaceuticals company, said. He believes the practice helped him recover from Covid-19 last year.
He has since been a regular at the Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul Vishwavidya Pratishthanam, a school run by Hindu monks that lies just across the road from the Indian headquarters of Zydus Cadila, which is developing its own Covid-19 vaccine.
As participants wait for the dung and urine mixture on their bodies to dry, they hug or honour the cows at the shelter, and practice yoga to boost energy levels. The packs are then washed off with milk or buttermilk.
There are also concerns the practice could contribute to the spread of the virus as it involved people gathering in groups.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org