Coronavirus: Satellite images reveal Iran has dug mass graves

Virus Outbreak Mideast Iran

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.

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A firefighter disinfects the shrine of Saint Saleh to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in northern Tehran, Iran, Friday, March, 6, 2020. A Health Ministry spokesman warned authorities could use unspecified “force” to halt travel between major cities. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
A medic treats a patient infected with the new coronavirus, at a hospital in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 8, 2020. With the approaching Persian New Year, known as Nowruz, officials kept up pressure on people not to travel and to stay home. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, who gave Iran's new casualty figures Sunday, reiterated that people should not even attend funerals. (AP Photo/Mohammad Ghadamali)
In this Sunday, March 1, 2020 photo, a medic treats a patient infected with coronavirus, at a hospital in Tehran, Iran. A member of a council that advises Iran's supreme leader died Monday after falling sick from the new coronavirus, becoming the first top official to succumb to the illness striking both citizens and leaders of the Islamic Republic. (Ali Shirband/Mizan News Agency via AP)
A medic treats a patient infected with the new coronavirus, at a hospital in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 8, 2020. With the approaching Persian New Year, known as Nowruz, officials kept up pressure on people not to travel and to stay home. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, who gave Iran's new casualty figures Sunday, reiterated that people should not even attend funerals. (AP Photo/Mohammad Ghadamali)
In this Tuesday, March, 10, 2020 photo, paramedics work in a laboratory that tests samples taken from patients suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (Amin Nazari/ISNA via AP)
Medics treat a patient infected with the new coronavirus, at a hospital in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 8, 2020. With the approaching Persian New Year, known as Nowruz, officials kept up pressure on people not to travel and to stay home. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, who gave Iran's new casualty figures Sunday, reiterated that people should not even attend funerals. (AP Photo/Mohammad Ghadamali)
En esta imagen del martes 10 de marzo de 2020, paramédicos analizando muestras de pacientes sospechosos de tener el nuevo coronavirus, en un laboratorio en la ciudad suroccidental de Ahvaz, Irán. (Amin Nazari/ISNA via AP)
In this Tuesday, March, 10, 2020 photo, paramedics test samples taken from patients suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus, at a laboratory in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (Amin Nazari/ISNA via AP)
A nurse wears protective gear in a ward dedicated for people infected with the new coronavirus, at a hospital in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 8, 2020. With the approaching Persian New Year, known as Nowruz, officials kept up pressure on people not to travel and to stay home. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, who gave Iran's new casualty figures Sunday, reiterated that people should not even attend funerals. (AP Photo/Mohammad Ghadamali)
Relatives wearing face masks mourn over the grave of former politburo official in the Revolutionary Guard Farzad Tazari, shown in the poster, who died Monday after being infected with the new coronavirus, at the Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery just outside Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Mideast by the new coronavirus, which sickens but largely doesn't kill those afflicted. (Mahmood Hosseini/Tasnim News Agency via AP)
Mourners wearing face masks and gloves carry the body of former politburo official in the Revolutionary Guard Farzad Tazari, who died Monday after being infected with the new coronavirus, at the Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery just outside Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Mideast by the new coronavirus, which sickens but largely doesn't kill those afflicted. (Mahmood Hosseini/Tasnim News Agency via AP)
A nurse wears protective gear in a ward dedicated for people infected with the new coronavirus, at a hospital in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 8, 2020. With the approaching Persian New Year, known as Nowruz, officials kept up pressure on people not to travel and to stay home. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, who gave Iran's new casualty figures Sunday, reiterated that people should not even attend funerals. (AP Photo/Mohammad Ghadamali)
Paramedics treat a patient infected with the new coronavirus, at a hospital in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 8, 2020. With the approaching Persian New Year, known as Nowruz, officials kept up pressure on people not to travel and to stay home. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, who gave Iran's new casualty figures Sunday, reiterated that people should not even attend funerals. (AP Photo/Mohammad Ghadamali)
En esta imagen, distribuida por el cibersitio de la presidencia de Irán, miembros del gobierno se protegen con mascarillas durante una reunión del ejecutivo en Teherán, Irán, el 11 de marzo de 2020. (Oficina de la Presidencia de Irán vía AP)
Trabajadores desinfectando el santuario del imán Abdulazim, un santo chií, para ayudar a evitar la expansión de un nuevo coronavirus, en Shahr-e-Ray, al sur de Teherán, Irán, el sábado 7 de marzo de 2020. (AP Foto/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Workers disinfect the shrine of the Shiite Saint Imam Abdulazim to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Shahr-e-Ray, south of Tehran, Iran, Saturday, March, 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Workers disinfect the shrine of the Shiite Saint Imam Abdulazim to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Shahr-e-Ray, south of Tehran, Iran, Saturday, March, 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
A man wearing protective gear disinfects Health Ministry headquarters because of the new coronavirus, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, March 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
In this Saturday, March 7, 2020, a man wearing protective gear calls on a phone next to the patients in a ward dedicated for people infected with the new coronavirus, at Baqiyatallah Al'Azam Hospital affiliated to the Revolutionary Guard, in Tehran, Iran. Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Mideast by the new coronavirus, which sickens but largely doesn't kill those afflicted. (Mohammad Hasan Zarifmanesh/Tasnim News Agency via AP)
Passengers wait to exit the plane after landing in Tokyo on a flight from San Francisco Sunday, March 8, 2020, in Tokyo. As cases of the coronavirus surge in Italy, Iran, South Korea, the U.S. and elsewhere, many scientists say it's plain that the world is in the grips of a pandemic — a serious global outbreak. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
In this Saturday, March 7, 2020, a patient infected with the new coronavirus is carried, at Baqiyatallah Al'Azam Hospital affiliated to the Revolutionary Guard, in Tehran, Iran. Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Mideast by the new coronavirus, which sickens but largely doesn't kill those afflicted. (Mohammad Hasan Zarifmanesh/Tasnim News Agency via AP)
A firefighter disinfects a traditional shopping center to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in northern Tehran, Iran, Friday, March, 6, 2020. A Health Ministry spokesman warned authorities could use unspecified “force” to halt travel between major cities. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
A firefighter disinfects the shrine of Saint Saleh to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in northern Tehran, Iran, Friday, March, 6, 2020. A Health Ministry spokesman warned authorities could use unspecified “force” to halt travel between major cities. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
A firefighter disinfects a taxi stand to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in northern Tehran, Iran, Friday, March, 6, 2020. A Health Ministry spokesman warned authorities could use unspecified “force” to halt travel between major cities.(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
A firefighter disinfects the shrine of Saint Saleh to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in northern Tehran, Iran, Friday, March, 6, 2020. A Health Ministry spokesman warned authorities could use unspecified “force” to halt travel between major cities.(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
In this Wednesday, March. 4, 2020 photo, a Revolutionary Guard member disinfects an ATM machine to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Tehran, Iran. Wearing gas masks and waterproof fatigues, members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard now spray down streets and hospitals with disinfectants as the Islamic Republic faces one of the world's worst outbreaks of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
A firefighter disinfects public exercise equipment to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, March 5, 2020. Iran has one of the highest death tolls in the world from the new coronavirus outside of China, the epicenter of the outbreak. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
In this Wednesday, March 4, 2020, photo, Revolutionary Guard members take part in disinfecting the city to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Tehran, Iran. Wearing gas masks and waterproof fatigues, members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard now spray down streets and hospitals with disinfectants as the Islamic Republic faces one of the world's worst outbreaks of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
City workers disinfect a bench because of the new coronavirus in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, March 5, 2020. Iran has one of the highest death tolls in the world from the new coronavirus outside of China, the epicenter of the outbreak. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
A man wearing a face mask travels on a public bus in northern Tehran, Iran, Sunday, March 1, 2020. While the new coronavirus has extended its reach across the world, geographic clusters of infections were emerging, with Iran, Italy and South Korea seeing rising cases. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
In this Sunday, March 1, 2020 photo, a medic treats a patient infected with coronavirus, at a hospital in Tehran, Iran. A member of a council that advises Iran's supreme leader died Monday after falling sick from the new coronavirus, becoming the first top official to succumb to the illness striking both citizens and leaders of the Islamic Republic. (Ali Shirband/Mizan News Agency via AP)
A photograph taken on March 13, 2020 shows an almost emply road in the Iranian capital Tehran, after measures were taken to slow down the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19. - The outbreak of the virus in Iran is one of the deadliest outside China, where the disease originated. Several politicians and officials both sitting and former have been infected, with some dying from the illness. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo by STR/afp/AFP via Getty Images)
Workers in protective suits spray disinfectants near the gate of Shalamcha Border Crossing, after Iraq shut a border crossing to travellers between Iraq and Iran, Iraq March 8, 2020. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani
Passengers wearing protective face masks arrive from Iran, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, at Najaf airport, in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq February 26, 2020. Picture taken February 26, 2020. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani
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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.

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.

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