New Delhi: A series of satellite images indicate that the coronavirus outbreak in Iran is far worse than what has been reported so far.
A report in The Washington Post revealed evidence of “unusual activity” at a cemetery in close proximity to where the infections emerged.
According to the satellite images, a new section of graves was being excavated from 21 February onward in Behesht-e Masoumeh complex in Qom, south of Tehran. By the end of February, images indicated that two large trenches (over 100 yards in length) were visible at the site from space.
The report suggested that these graves have been dug to accommodate the increasing number of coronavirus victims in Qom.
What the satellite images indicate
Satellite images from 1 March indicated two trenches and it seemed that the excavation has continued since then.
The Behesht-e Masoumeh complex in Qom includes the city’s largest cemetery. It also includes a park, a mosque and a morgue.
Qom, a city of 1.2 million people, serves as the “spiritual centre” of Iran’s Shiite clerics.
Officials claimed over 846 people have contracted the virus in Qom, but the government hasn’t revealed the death toll for Qom.
Moreover, the accessed satellite images indicated that the number of victims of the virus are far higher than the official figure.
Some videos from the cemetery have been posted on social media. These videos too indicate that the rows of graves at Behesht-e Masoumeh are meant for coronavirus victims.
The imagery analyst, requesting anonymity, also pointed to “an image showing what appears to be a large white pile of lime, which can be used to manage decay and odour in mass graves”.
Iranian health officials have recently confirmed the use of lime while burying coronavirus victims.
Denial from Iranian government
Media reports claimed the numbers stated by the Iranian government are not an accurate reflection of the outbreak in the country.
When the trenches were being dug around 24 February, a legislator from Qom had accused the health ministry of lying about the number of deaths.
Responding to the allegation, Iraj Harirchi, deputy health minister, had held a press conference to “categorically deny” the claims, even though he was coughing and sweating during the meet.
Harirchi tested positive for coronavirus the very next day.
Some members of the Iranian parliament, a former diplomat and a senior adviser to the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, have died due to the virus.
Amir Afkhami, associate professor at George Washington University, said, “It doesn’t surprise me that they are now trying to create mass graves and trying to hide the actual extent of the impact of the disease.”
“Because of China’s status as the country’s principal commercial partner, the Iranian government took inadequate cautionary measures to restrict and monitor travelers from China,” he added.
“Then, later on, Tehran’s lack of transparency and unwillingness to take robust measures such as social distancing and quarantine, particularly at the epicentre of the outbreak, helped spread the virus,” Afkhami said.