As more "bodies in the river" surfaced on Tuesday in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, corpses were seen floating under a bridge near the border between the two states in an escalating human tragedy amid Covid. Officials in Bihar said the number of corpses that had washed up on the Ganga banks at Buxar on Monday was a staggering 71 and they blame Uttar Pradesh for them.
Visuals of bodies allegedly thrown over a bridge by ambulance drivers were widely shared on social media, where posts expressed shock at the insensitivity towards Covid victims and their families.
A Bihar BJP MP, Janardhan Singh Sigriwal, alleged that bodies of Covid victims were being dumped into the river from ambulances driving on the bridge known as Jaiprabha Setu, located in Bihar's Saran near the border with Ballia in UP.
Mr Sigriwal said he had urged the district administration of Saran to ensure ambulance drivers didn't dump bodies there.
However, locals claim both states are guilty. "Bodies are thrown over by ambulance drivers from both UP and Bihar," said a resident, Arvind Singh.
On Monday, bloated and decomposing bodies, said to be of Covid victims, were seen floating in the river before they washed up at the banks at Buxar's Chausa village, near a cremation site.
"All night the bodies were taken out and post mortems were carried out. Because they were decomposed, the cause of death has not been established yet," said a press statement from the Buxar administration.
"We have saved DNA traces to help identify the corpses," it said.
Officials emphatically dismissed reports that the bodies were thrown into the river by local people because of the exorbitant prices charged for firewood to cremate them.
"There is enough firewood at the cremation grounds and six to eight bodies have been burnt each day on average," the press statement said.
"We have told all officials to be alert about such incidents in future and have also asked them to make locals aware about not throwing bodies into the river."
The District Magistrate of Buxar, Aman Samir, said a "narrative was being made" that due to the lack of logs for cremation or financial issues, families were immersing their dead in the Ganga. "This is not true," Mr Samir said.
The floating corpses in the Ganga have fueled a dispute between Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Bihar Minister Sanjay Kumar Jha said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was "pained" after the incident.
"The bodies have floated into Bihar from UP. Upon postmortem, our doctors have confirmed that these are four-five days old bodies. Nitish Kumar is pained at both the tragedy as well as harm to the river Ganges. A net has been placed in Ganges in Ranighat, bordering UP and Bihar," the Minister said.
"We've advised the UP administration to be vigilant; our district administration is keeping vigil too. We advise all to respect the dead and Ma Ganga," he added.
On Tuesday, dead bodies were seen in the river near Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh. The spot is around 55 km upriver from Buxar.