In a macabre image that reveals the tragedy of the pandemic in the India, dozens of corpses of victims of the coronavirus appeared floating in the waters of the Ganges in recent days before the seasonal flood of that sacred river of Hindu culture.
More than 150 bodies had to be cremated in the last three weeks alone in the city of Allahabad, in the north of the country, he told the AFP the local official Neeraj Kumar Singh.
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The graves were buried shallow during the recent wave of COVID-19 infections that caused tens of thousands of deaths across the country.
“We are not exhuming any bodies, but only those that are floating due to rising water levels are being cremated,” Singh said.
And he added: “The area stretches for a kilometer and we believe there are between 500 and 600 bodies buried. All necessary precautions are taken when treating the bodies while the final rites are performed ”.
Emergency due to the rains
Authorities suspect that most of the bodies belong to victims of the coronavirus who died between April and May, when the country was devastated by a wave of contagions of the Delta variant, more contagious and lethal and that brought the national health system to its knees.
The macabre situation revealed the emergency that the country experienced in recent months. The families that they were unable to obtain firewood for traditional cremations hindu drowned the bodies in the Ganges or buried them in adjacent sandbars to the river.
Now the annual monsoon rains are eating the sand off the coast, carrying dozens of corpses with them, floating in the sacred waters of India’s best-known watercourse.
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The images are very harsh. Among brown reeds, bodies wrapped in saffron cloth float in the river.
The number of these graves fuels the suspicions of many Indians that the total deaths caused by the pandemic, in reality, is much higher than the official nearly 400,000 victims.
This sad reality is reminiscent of the dramatic moments lived in April and May, when cemeteries and crematoria were overwhelmed by the extraordinary daily influx of deaths from coronavirus.
Due to lack of space or resources, numerous families from North and East India buried the bodies of their loved ones on the sandy banks of the river. Others simply let the waters wash away the corpses.
But a month later the arrival of the monsoon caused heartbreaking images of bodies floating adrift amid severe flooding.
Meanwhile, funeral pyres continue to multiply on the banks of the river, where piles of firewood are piled up in anticipation that more bodies will appear to be cremated. The fear now is that the advance of the waters will continue to leave a trail of badly buried corpses.
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“It was very sad to see these poor people bury their loved ones in such an unworthy way, and the rising waters only make the situation worse,” he told the AFP the boatman Sonu Chandel, who works in a crematorium on the banks of the river.
And he added: “I am always afraid that a body will hit my paddle or that my boat will pass over a corpse when the water rises.”
Meanwhile, the inhabitants of other important religious sites in northern India, located downstream, fear that the prolonged presence of corpses will further infect the river, one of the most polluted in the world.
Police and state rescue teams patrol the river for bodies. The authorities mobilized two boats for this task on the shores and sometimes turn to local fishermen for assistance.