Scores of dead bodies found floating in Ganges River as India’s COVID-19 crisis rages

Officers stand on a stretch of concrete covered in writing alongside the Ganges.
Police officials stand guard Tuesday on the banks of the Ganges River in India’s Uttar Pradesh state where several bodies were found floating.
(KK Productions)

Scores of dead bodies have been found floating down the Ganges River in eastern India as the country battles a ferocious surge in coronavirus infections.

Authorities said Tuesday they hadn’t yet determined the cause of death of those whose bodies were found in the river.

Health officials working through the night Monday retrieved 71 bodies, officials in Bihar state said.


Images on social media of the bodies floating in the river prompted outrage and speculation that they were the corpses of COVID-19 victims. Authorities performed autopsies Tuesday but said they could not yet confirm the cause of death because of decomposition.

More corpses were found floating in the river Tuesday, washing up in Ghazipur district in neighboring Uttar Pradesh state. Police and villagers were at the site, which is about 30 miles from where bodies were discovered Monday.

“We are trying to find out where did these dead bodies come from. How did they get here?” said Mangla Prasad Singh, a local official.

High-rise apartment towers are hotbeds of infections, whereas some slums are proving resilient after enduring the first wave of the virus last year.

May 7, 2021

Surinder, a resident of Ghazipur who uses one name, said villagers didn’t have enough wood to cremate their dead on land.

“Due to the shortage of wood, the dead are being buried in the water,” he said. “Bodies from around 12 to 13 villages have been buried in the water.”

The Ganges is revered as holy by Hindus. The ashes of cremated bodies are often scattered in its waters.


Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are experiencing rising COVID-19 cases as infections in India grow faster than anywhere else in the world.

On Tuesday, the country confirmed nearly 390,000 new cases, including 3,876 more deaths. Overall, India has had the second-highest number of confirmed cases after the U.S. with nearly 23 million infections and more than 240,000 deaths. All of the figures are almost certainly a vast undercount, experts say.