Monsoon rise in Ganges’ water level reveals mass graves of suspected Covid victims, say reports

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A member of Indian Institute of Toxicology Research collects sample from river Ganges on 24 May, 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
A member of Indian Institute of Toxicology Research collects sample from river Ganges on 24 May, 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

More bodies of suspected Covid patients have emerged in the sandbanks of the river Ganges in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh with a rise in the water levels during the monsoon, according to media reports.

Viral videos from different areas of the Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj area on 23 and 24 June showed authorities fishing out the bodies, according to Indian news channel NDTV.

Niraj Kumar Singh, a zonal officer for the Prayagraj Municipal Corporation, was quoted by NDTV as saying that he had cremated around 40 bodies in the past 24 hours. “We are cremating all bodies individually and following all rituals,” Mr Singh said.

One photograph showed that a body had white surgical gloves on while it was being pulled out of the river by Prayagraj municipal corporation. Another reportedly had an oxygen tube still in the mouth, hinting that they could be bodies of Covid-19 patients.

Hundreds of bodies were found dumped in various rivers of India, including the Ganges which Hindus consider holy, after the deadly second wave wreaked havoc in the country. India reported the second highest number of Covid cases so far, and saw a record surge in infections in the months of March and April.

Videos by news channels also showed authorities performing cremation ceremonies.

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Mr Singh said about the body that was spotted with an oxygen tube: “You can see that the person was ill, and the family dumped the person here and went away. Maybe they were scared, I cannot say.”

The Deccan Herald quoted sources as saying that the “bodies started emerging out of the sandy graves since Thursday morning as the water level of the rivers began to rise.”

Not all bodies were decomposed and the condition of some indicated they were freshly buried, he added. ABP News reported that with monsoon raising the level of water in the Ganges, soil from the bank eroded, exposing the shallow graves. The report claimed that in the last 15 days, as many as 70 bodies were taken out of the graves and cremated.

Prayagraj’s Mayor Abhilasha Gupta Nandi told Indian media: “Wherever we find exposed bodies because of the spate in the river, we are carrying out cremations.” The UP government is yet to officially comment on the new spate of bodies recovered or whether they were of Covid patients.

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