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Authorities in India discover hundreds of bodies buried in riverbanks

Indian authorities have discovered hundreds of bodies buried along riverbanks, with officials speculating they could be COVID-19 victims, The Associated Press reported.

An AP journalist estimated that 300 bodies were discovered on Saturday in Prayagraj, a city in Uttar Pradesh state. Senior police officer K.P. Singh told the news service that authorities had designated the area as a COVID-19 cremation ground and said that police wouldn't allow any more burials along the riverfront. 

State government spokesman Navneet Sehgal on Sunday disputed the reports that more than 1,000 bodies have been buried along the riverbanks. 

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Sehgal added that, due to Hindu tradition, local villagers did not cremate the dead, instead disposing of or burying them in rivers, the AP noted.

“I bet these bodies have nothing to do with COVID-19,” Sehgal said.

Ramesh Kumar Singh, a member of an organization that helps cremate bodies, told the AP that people are dumping them in the rivers because of the high cost of performing last rites and a wood shortage.

This comes as India is struggling to deal with the ongoing wave of the virus, with two states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, being the worst affected. 

On Sunday, the Health Ministry reported 311,170 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past day along with 4,047 deaths, according to the AP.