Hundreds of corpses washed up on the banks of the Ganges in terrible images from India during the monsoon season.
Staggering photos, taken in the populous state of Uttar Pradesh, show corpses floating down the waterway that Hindus consider sacred.
Most of the bodies are said to be people who have died of Covid-19.
They had been buried in shallow graves along the riverbanks by families who could not afford the rising prices for pyres at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is not the first time, as similar images and videos surfaced in May that shock the nation and highlight the severity of the world’s largest surge in Covid-19 infections.
Although cases have fallen dramatically this month, the city of Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh alone cremated 108 bodies found in the river in the past three weeks, a senior community official said.
Neeraj Kumar Singh told Reuters: “These are the bodies that were buried very near the river and went in when the water level rose.
“The city society has deployed a team of 25 people who are on duty on this front day and night.”
Up to 600 bodies were reportedly buried along the sacred river, but locals believe the real number could be much higher and fear that more bodies could be moved by fast water in the next few weeks.
Some people fear that if the bodies are not removed, the river could become even more polluted.
Dipin Kumar, who lives in Allahabad near the Ganges, told AFP, “This … could cause dangerous diseases. The government has to think about it and only they can make a plan. “
Sonu Chandel, a boatman who works in a riverside crematorium, was shocked to see families burying their dead two months ago.
He said, “It was really sad to see poor people burying loved ones in undignified ways, but the rising water levels made it worse.
“There’s always a fear that (a body) will hit the rudder or (my boat) run over a dead body when the water level rises.”
The government of Uttar Pradesh, home to 240 million people, admitted in May that bodies of Covid-19 victims had been dumped into rivers, likely due to poverty and families abandoning victims for fear of the disease.
Uttar Pradesh Government Spokeswoman Navneet Sehgal said: “Each district judge has received instructions to cremate the bodies with due respect.
“Corpses are buried on the banks of the river, based on a local tradition.”
Police and state disaster teams are now patrolling the river to retrieve bodies, but an official said removing bodies from the water was challenging because the river is very fast.
India reported 45,951 new Covid-19 infections in the past 24 hours, data from the Ministry of Health showed.
A total of 30,362,848 cases have been reported in India since the pandemic began.
The country’s coronavirus death toll rose 817 overnight to 398,484.