Government says COVID-19 victims' bodies found in India's Ganges River: report

 Government says COVID-19 victims' bodies found in India's Ganges River: report
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People who have died from the coronavirus in India have been found in the Ganges River, according to a state government letter viewed by Reuters. 

The news comes amid a massive spike in coronavirus cases and deaths in the South Asian country, home to about 1.4 billion people. The country has scrambled for resources to combat the disease, including oxygen, personal protective equipment and vaccine doses, in the past few weeks. 

In particular, the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, home to more than 200 million people, has been hit hard by the virus. Bodies of coronavirus victims have been seen floating in the river there, according to Reuters. 

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"The administration has information that bodies of those who have succumbed to COVID-19 or any other disease are being thrown into rivers instead of being disposed of as per proper rituals," Manoj Kumar Singh, a senior state official, said in the May 14 letter to other districts. 

"As a result, bodies have been recovered from rivers in many places," Singh added, according to Reuters. 

Although media outlets have reported on bodies being dumped in the river, this is the first time the government has officially acknowledged the alarming practice. 

Singh, in the government document, said that many people are dumping bodies because they lack the funds for cremation, for religious reasons or because they fear they will catch the coronavirus from the dead.  

The cost of funerals and last rites has increased drastically as thousands have been dying from COVID-19 in the country each day.

Reuters reported that India has seen more than 4,000 deaths daily for almost two weeks. 

A spokesperson for the state of Uttar Pradesh denied reports that as many as 2,000 bodies have been recovered from rivers, according to the wire service. 

India will begin having police patrol rivers for bodies, and Singh said the state will pay poorer families 5,000 rupees ($68) to properly cremate or bury the dead.