Bodies Found Floating in India's Ganges River as Country Copes with Rising COVID Death Toll

The harrowing sight is one of many that show the devastation COVID-19 is having in India

covid india
Photo: Ritesh Shukla/Getty

Dozens of bodies have been found floating down the Ganges River in India as the country deals with a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

The shocking sight has unfolded in eastern India as more than 70 dead bodies have been pulled from the Ganges River, according to the Associated Press. India has been struggling with an influx of COVID-19 cases and deaths in recent weeks, leading to continuous mass cremations.

Officials said they haven't yet determined the causes of death for many of the victims found in the Ganges River, and some speculated they may have been killed by the virus. Due to deterioration, officials won't able to find a cause of death for many of the bodies, the AP reported.

As of Tuesday morning, nearly 250,000 people have been killed by COVID-19 in India since the start of the pandemic, according to the country's Ministry of Health. There are currently more than 371,000 active cases of COVID-19 amongst India's population.

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Ritesh Shukla/Getty

"Due to the shortage of wood, the dead are being buried in the water," a local told the AP of what residents are experiencing. "Bodies from around 12-13 villages have been buried in the water."

"Private hospitals are looting people," another resident added to BBC. "Common people are not left with money to pay a priest and spend more on cremation at the river bank. They are asking 2,000 rupees [£20; $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."

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According to BBC, locals had been complaining about a smell coming from the area for days but authorities did not respond until the bodies were found. In the village of Gahmar, police were using sticks to pull bodies out of the water.

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Globally, there have been more than 158.9 million cases of COVID-19, and 3.3 million deaths, according to a New York Times database.

President Joe Biden announced in April that the U.S. will join several European countries in sending aid to India. The U.S. will provide financial assistance and raw materials for vaccines.

"Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic," he wrote in a message on Twitter, "we are determined to help India in its time of need."

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO, and local public health departments.PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities.

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