Coronavirus: Dozens of corpses, many half-burned, found floating down the Ganges river

The bodies of dozens of suspected COVID-19 victims have been found floating down India's sacred river, the Ganges.

Some washed ashore in the state of Bihar, Indian newspaper The Tribune reported, right onto riverbanks where other victims were being cremated. 

It's not clear how long the bodies have been in the river, which flows from the Himalayas through India and Bangladesh into the Bay of Bengal. 

"There is a possibility that these bodies have come out of Uttar Pradesh," a local Bihar official told BBC News.

Some locals said up to 150 bodies were found, bloated and decomposing. Official figures say between 30 and 48, according to reports.

"A few of the bodies were seen tied with bamboos, which indicate that people have come here and abandoned the bodies for fear of COVID-19 infections," a local told The Tribune

The sheer scale of India's COVID-19 crisis has seen bodies mass cremated in pyres, many of them taking alongside riverbanks where the ashes end up being disposed of. But formal cremations are skyrocketing in price, according to reports, due to the demand. 

"Common people are not left with money to pay a priest and spend more on cremation at the river bank," a local told BBC News. "The river has become their last recourse so people are immersing corpses in the river."

"Some people immersed the bodies in the river, while others disposed of half-burnt bodies in the water," one man told the Times of India

The remains would be cremated where they were found, one official said, according to the Times.

"Instructions have also been issued to take punitive actions against anyone found disposing of mortal remains in the river." 

India has recorded 23 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 250,000 deaths. Both figures are believed to be massively undercounted, with some experts saying the real death toll is at least three times higher, others suggesting it could be 10 times higher