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Relatives gather around the body of a man before cremating him on the banks of the Ganges River, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, on May 6, 2021.

DANISH SIDDIQUI/Reuters

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 haven’t yet determined the cause of death.

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 died from COVID-19. Authorities performed post mortems on Tuesday but said they could not confirm the cause of death due to the decomposition of the bodies.

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More corpses were found floating in the river on Tuesday, washing up in Ghazipur district in neighboring Uttar Pradesh state. Police and villagers were at the site, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Monday’s incident.

“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.

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 12-13 villages have been buried in the water.”

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 and over 240,000 deaths. All of the figures are almost certainly a vast undercount, experts say.

As India struggles under a second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic, auto-rickshaws have become the latest symbols of hope in Delhi, doubling up as ambulances to help its collapsing healthcare system. Reuters

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