Satellite images taken of a mass graves site near Qom in Iran, have fuelled concerns that the Iranian authorities have not been honest about the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The images, published in the New York Times, show a newly excavated area of a cemetery on the outskirts of the religious city of Qom, in northern Iran. The satellite images, dated from late February, suggest that the Iranian government had been grappling with a severe outbreak for sometime before reporting the first deaths.
The Guardian reported that a member of parliament from Qom, accused the authorities in Tehran of lying about the true extent of the crisis, after they claimed that there were only 12 reported deaths from across the country. Local officials in Qom said that the number of dead was at least 50.
As of March the 12th, Iran reported that there were 10,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, but global health experts and governments suspect that the figure is likely to be much higher - given the mortality rate and the lack of reliable data.
Vox.com reported that the collection of images, taken by the company Maxar, revealed that the trenches had been dug quickly and, revealed large pits of lime that authorities have admitted too using to cover the dead.
Coronavirus burial pits so vast they're visible from space.- The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) March 12, 2020
Iranian authorities began digging a pair of trenches for victims just days after the government disclosed the initial outbreak. https://t.co/3S4dgLisbupic.twitter.com/UJwEWEAdhi
Media reports over the past two weeks have suggested that the government in Tehran is struggling to contain the outbreak and is hiding the true scale of deaths. CNN reported scenes of black body bags piling up on the floor of a morgue in Qom, which is believed to be the epicentre of the country's Covid-19 outbreak.
Iranian officials have denied the claims that they have covered-up information to the extent of the virus's grip on the country. This comes despite several government ministers falling ill after contracting the coronavirus.