Ambulance staff in India have been accused of dumping the bodies of Covid-19 victims into the Ganges River, as corpses washed up on its banks for the second consecutive day.
On Tuesday, an MP from India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Janardhan Singh Sigriwal, claimed that the bodies of the Covid dead were being thrown into the river by ambulance staff in the northern state of Bihar.
Video was then shared by leading Indian news channel NDTV showing ambulance staff apparently throwing corpses into the river.
On Tuesday, more than a dozen bodies were seen floating in the Ghazipur district of Uttar Pradesh, one of the Indian states worst affected by the country's enormous second wave of the virus.
Local residents spotted the decomposing corpses in the water and alerted the authorities, who have launched an investigation into where the bodies came from. Their condition suggested they had been in the water for several days.
Police patrols will be established in the area to ensure further bodies are not dumped in the river. Ghazipur is 56km upstream from where approximately 100 bodies washed up on Monday, in the Buxar district of Bihar state. Healthcare infrastructure in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, two of India's poorest states, has collapsed under rising case numbers.
Villagers in Buxar told the Telegraph that some bodies in the river were partially burnt and had been dumped in the river because crematoriums in the district and further upstream were overwhelmed with Covid-19 deaths.
"During normal times, the crematorium here would usually see between two and three bodies daily. But, the number of dead bodies arriving each day is nearer to 60," said one resident of the village of Chausa.
Rural Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are very poor and local activists say the price for cremation has skyrocketed from 400 rupees ($7.50) up to 10,000 ($187), with shortages of wood also reported, which has forced residents to leave bodies in the river.
"Poverty is one reason for the dead bodies flowing in the Ganges because it costs a lot to burn dead bodies," added one resident of the Gahmar village.
On Sunday, dozens of bodies believed to be those of Covid victims, were also reported floating on the River Yamuna in the Hamirpur district of Uttar Pradesh.
While a significant drop in testing has led to a slight fall in the number of new daily cases, India's second wave shows no sign of slowing down.
Twenty Indian states continue to report a positivity rate of over 20 per cent, with Goa at the highest at 48 per cent, while India recorded a seven-day average of new cases at a record global high of 390,995.
- Additional reporting by Mohammad Sartaj Alam