'It was like an aircraft crash': Horror after sixteen pilot whales die in mass stranding as rescuers battle to save rest of the pod


Horror: Dead pilot whales litter the shore as rescue workers survey the scene after the mass stranding near Pittenweem off the coast of Fife

Sixteen whales - including three calves - have died in a mass stranding off the coast of Fife as dozens of rescuers desperately tried to save the rest of the pod.
The mammals were part of a group of 26 pilot whales stranded at Pittenweem, near St Andrews.
Vets from the British Divers and Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR), with help from the emergency services including Fife fire service, saved the remaining 10 whales and returned them to the sea.

Grim: Emergency Service workers were unable to help save 16 pilot whales after they beached near Pittenweem off the coast of Fife

The 20-feet long animals came ashore around 7am yesterday in a scene described as like that from 'an aircraft crash.'
About 50 vets and members of the emergency services worked around the clock using wet blankets and sheets to keep the remaining 10 whales alive, give them shade and keep them cool.

Shocking: The scene of horror that greeted rescuers was described as 'like an aircraft crash' as more than a dozen whales lay dead on the beach near Pittenweem off the coast of Fife

Two breached again but were re-floated by scores of volunteers.
The BDMLR said in a statement: 'All ten whales have now been reported as having left the harbour. 'The two that had turned back re-stranded but BDMLR volunteers were able to get them straight back into the water.

Help: Members of the emergency services attempt to refloat pilot whales after they beached near Pittenweem off the coast of Fife

'One was in difficulty and listing to one side, but the whales from the main pod swam beside it, physically keeping it upright until it could right itself. Once it was balanced and able to swim without support, the pod all swam strongly out towards open water.
'It is hoped that they will turn north soon to return to the deeper water but observers along the southern coast of the Forth are on alert if they are seen again.'

Lifesavers: Teams of specialist vets steer a stranded pilot whale towards deeper water

Post mortem examinations will now be carried out to find out what caused them to come ashore.
Forth Coastguard was alerted to the incident shortly after 7am, with initial reports suggesting a mass stranding of dolphins.
Teams of volunteer medics from BDMLR were sent to the area, with specialist rescue pontoons being moved to the location from across Scotland, Newcastle and Cumbria.

Frantic efforts: Emergency services attempt to rescue a large number of pilot whales who became stranded

Gareth Norman, area co-ordinator for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, said the scene was 'like an aircraft crash.'
'It was like an aircraft crash scene. We had 24 medics here with our pontoons, there are four vets, Anstruther RNLI, police, coastguards - everybody did everything they could to save those whales.
'Pilot whales have a habit of beaching. One strands and the others tend to stick together.'
A further 24 pilot whales from the same pod are in the shallows three miles along the coast at Cellardyke.

Major operation: Dozens of specialist vets waded into the water in an attempt to refloat some of the surviving whales

The group of 26 pilot whales became stranded at Pittenweem, near St Andrews, Scotland

Drama: Crowds gathers to watch the drama unfold as rescuers battled to save the rest of the pod which had stranded at low tide near Pittenweem off the coast of Fife

source: dailymail