Dozens more bodies of Covid victims in India washed up on the banks of the Ganges on Tuesday, as ambulance drivers were spotted dumping corpses into the water.
The infected bodies surfaced in the river along the border of the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which the Ganges run through.
Officials in Bihar have said that it had counted 71 bodies washed up on the banks of the river, and blamed its Uttar Pradesh neighbour for them.
A video reportedly showing bodies thrown into the water by ambulance drivers was shared widely on social media, and was picked up by local news outlets.
Another showed the bodies washed up on the shores of the Ganges, with wild dogs walking in the shallows and sniffing at the victims.
Scroll down for video
Dozens more bodies of Covid victims in Inida washed up on the banks of the Ganges on Tuesday, as ambulance drivers were spotted dumping corpses into the water
The infected bodies (pictured) surfaced in the river along the border of the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where the Ganges run through
Health workers in India were filmed reportedly dumping bodies in the Ganges (pictured)
People have reacted with horror to the footage, partly out of fear that relatives could not carry out the sacred funeral rites for their loved ones.
Tuesday’s discovery comes after more than 150 rotting bodies were dumped into the river on Monday in the same region.
Some of the bodies on Tuesday were partially burned, according to media reports quoting other officials, suggesting they had not been properly cremated.
Locals suggested to AFP news agency that people were immersing the bodies of relatives who had died of Covid-19 because they could not afford wood for funeral pyres or because crematoriums were overwhelmed.
Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are two of India’s poorest states and home to an estimated 370 million people.
Janardhan Singh Sigriwal, a Bihar Member of Parliament for the country’s ruling BJP party, claimed that the coronavirus victims were being dumped by ambulance drivers from a bridge.
Pictured: Dogs paddle in the shallows, attracted by the bodies of reported victims of the coronavirus disease that have washed up on the shore of the Ganges in India
The infected bodies surfaced in river along the border of the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where the River Ganges run through. Pictured: Dogs and bodies in the water
Pictured: A tractor is parked on the shore of the river Ganges where bodies of reported coronavirus victims have washed up. The bodies were found on Tuesday
Meanwhile, officials in the Katihar district have opened an investigation after the video of the bodies being dumped by hospital staff circulated online.
A senior figures from the hospital has been asked to report to local authorities within the next day to explain the incident.
It is reported that the bodies of the coronavirus victims were unclaimed, and that was why staff were attempting to get rid of them quickly, rather than having to perform the full last rites, which involves burying or cremating them.
On Monday, the decomposed bodies were discovered on the banks of the Ganges in the northern state of Bihar, with residents telling local officials they had seen dozens floating downstream.
There were more than 150 bodies spotted in the river on Bihar’s border, according to the Times of India. However, local officials denied the number, putting the figure at between 40 and 45.
One local official told NDTV: ‘They are bloated and have been in the water for at least five to seven days. We are disposing of the bodies. We need to investigate where they are from, which town in UP (Uttar Pradesh) – Bahraich or Varanasi or Allahabad.
Harrowing footage showed dozens of bodies washed up at the sides of the River Ganges in northeastern Bihar state on Monday
‘The bodies are not from here as we don’t have a tradition of disposing of bodies in the river.’
The local administration believes that the deceased were Covid patients and local villagers have been left terrified the disease could spread further after dogs were seen wading near the bodies.
On Tuesday, India recorded another 3,876 Covid-deaths in the previous 24 hours, and a further 329,942 cases – although both figures are almost certainly undercounts as the country looks set to reach the grim milestone of 250,000 official fatalities tomorrow.
The horrifying scenes come amid mounting pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to call a nationwide lockdown to combat a rapidly-spreading new variant, including from White House adviser Anthony Fauci who warned, ‘You’ve got to shutdown.’
Locals have suggested that people were immersing the bodies of relatives who had died of Covid-19 because they could not afford wood for funeral pyres or because crematoriums were overwhelmed
On Tuesday, India recorded another 3,876 Covid-deaths in the previous 24 hours, and a further 329,942 cases
Indian covid sufferers are now contracting deadly ‘black fungus’ infection with spike causing a shortage of the drugs to treat it
Mucormycosis, dubbed ‘black fungus’ by medics, is usually most aggressive in patients whose immune systems are weakened by other infections.
‘The cases of mucormycosis infection in Covid-19 patients post-recovery is nearly four to five times than those reported before the pandemic,’ Ahmedabad-based infectious diseases specialist Atul Patel, a member of the state’s Covid-19 taskforce, told AFP.
In the western state of Maharashtra, home to India’s financial hub Mumbai, up to 300 cases have been detected, said Khusrav Bajan, a consultant at Mumbai’s P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and a member of the state’s Covid-19 taskforce.
Some 300 cases have been reported so far in four cities in Gujarat, including its largest Ahmedabad, according to data from state-run hospitals.
The western state ordered government hospitals to set up separate treatment wards for patients infected with ‘black fungus’ amid the rise in cases.
‘Mucormycosis – if uncared for – may turn fatal,’ the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), the scientific agency leading the government’s response, said in a treatment chart released on Twitter.
Covid-19 sufferers more susceptible to contracting the fungal infection include those with uncontrolled diabetes, those who used steroids during their virus treatment, and those who had prolonged stays in hospital ICUs, the ICMR added.
Treatment involves surgically removing all dead and infected tissue and administering a course of anti-fungal therapy.
But Yogesh Dabholkar, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Mumbai’s DY Patil Hospital, told AFP that the drugs used to treat those infected with the fungus were expensive.
One of the treatment drugs was also running short in government hospitals due to the sudden spike, he added.
‘The mortality rate is very high… Even the few that recover, only recover with extensive and aggressive surgery,’ Bajan said.
‘This is a fast-moving infection. It can grow within two weeks… It’s a Catch-22, coming out of a virus and getting into a fungal infection. It’s really bad.’
Reporting by AFP
Speaking to ABC on Sunday, Fauci said: ‘I believe several of the Indian states have already done that, but you need to break the chain of transmission. And one of the ways to do that is to shut down.’
The northeastern state of Assam is feared to be the new infection powder keg, with cases spreading faster than anywhere else in the country.
A massive stadium and a university have been converted into hospitals just days after political rallies were held which have been blamed for helping to spread the disease.
Meanwhile in Delhi, the health minister has revealed they are running out of vaccines, with only three or four days worth of AstraZeneca doses remaining, while oxygen tanks in the city remain scarce.
Cases in Assam started ticking upwards a month ago and the official seven-day weekly average in the state on May 9 stood at more than 4,700 cases.
But a model run by the University of Michigan – which predicts the current spread of cases before they are actually detected – says infections in Assam are likely to be occurring as fast as any other place in the country.
Add to that recent elections in the state – and the huge political rallies that accompanied them – and experts fear an uncontrolled surge is on the horizon.
Worryingly, along with cities in India’s north-eastern frontier – which is closer to Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan than it is to New Delhi – cases have also started to spike in some remote Himalayan villages in the region.
Nationwide, India’s Health Ministry reported 360,000 new cases in the past 24 hours on Monday, with more than 3,700 deaths.
Since the pandemic began, India has seen more than 22.6 million infections and over 246,000 deaths – both, experts say, almost certainly undercounts.
Officials in Assam were racing to prepare for a virus surge because similar onslaughts in infections have overwhelmed hospitals in much richer Indian states.
‘We are adding 1,000 beds a week to prepare ourselves in the event of cases spiralling,’ said Dr Lakshmanan S, the director of the National Health Mission in Assam.
The state’s largest government-run hospital, the Guwahati Medical College Hospital, has more than doubled its number of intensive care beds to 220 and health officials are building another 200 in the hospital’s car park.
A football and cricket stadium is being converted into a hospital for Covid-19 patients with 430 beds.
The private Royal Global University in the state capital Gauhati has been converted into a hospital with 1,000 beds.
The state is sending doctors, paramedics and medicine to these facilities and the university said it would provide books and newspapers for patients to read.
‘This is the least we thought we could do in this time of huge crisis for our country,’ said Dr AK Pansari, the university chairman.
There are 2,100 beds reserved in government centres for Covid-19 patients in Gauhati, with hundreds more planned.
That is in addition to the existing 750 beds for patients at private hospitals in the state.
Even as infections have increased, the rates of vaccination have fallen in Assam and the other states in the region since India expanded its coverage to include all adults on May 1.
Adding to concerns is confirmation the virus has started spreading into more remote Himalayan villages with poor health infrastructure.
These areas are home to indigenous tribes, who already face some of the lowest access to healthcare in the nation.
The region had largely been untouched by the virus earlier and many people behaved like Covid-19 did not exist.
But it now appears the virus was spreading in even remote villages without people knowing until it was too late.
The lack of awareness about the virus, lack of resources and the remoteness is complicating contact tracing in such areas, said Dr Mite Linggi, the medical superintendent at the district hospital at Roing in Arunachal Pradesh state.