May 13, 2021 -- Health officials in Bihar state of India have pulled more than 70 bodies from the Ganges River as the nation battles a deadly surge in COVID-19 deaths, The Associated Press reported.

Autopsies were conducted but doctors could not determine if COVID was the cause of death because the bodies had deteriorated so much, the AP said.

Authorities don’t know where the bodies came from, but more bodies washed up in northeast India in the Ghazipur district of neighboring Uttar Pradesh state, about 50 kilometers away, the AP said.

In its own story, the BBC said residents and local journalists told BBC Hindi that some families have been forced to drop their dead loved ones into the river because of a shortage of wood for cremations and the high cost of funerals.

"Private hospitals are looting people,” local resident Chandra Mohan said in the BBC story. “Common people are not left with money to pay a priest and spend more on cremation at the riverbank. They are asking 2,000 rupees (about $27) just to get the corpse out of the ambulance. The river has become their last recourse, so people are immersing corpses in the river."

Both Utttar Pradesh and Bihar states have been hit hard by the COVID pandemic, which is now accounting for about 4,000 deaths daily in India. Authorities have said the pandemic is overwhelming health services and the ability to cremate bodies.

India’s high death rate may partially be caused by the emergence of a variant, B.1.617, which the World Health Organization has declared a variant of global concern. It’s the fourth variant the WHO has given that designation, along with the variants identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.

Many nations, including the United States, are limiting travel to and from India because of fears the Indian variant is highly transmissible.

The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare says more than 254,000 people have died nationwide in the pandemic.

Johns Hopkins University says India has reported the third most COVID-related deaths in the world, behind Brazil (424,540) and the United States (582,867). India has reported 23.4 million cases, second behind the U.S. with 32.7 million.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

Associated Press. “Scores of Dead Bodies Found Floating in India’s Ganges River”

BBC. “India Covid: Dozens of bodies wash up on banks of Ganges river”

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

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