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Two more whales die in Australia and stranding deaths reach 200

HOBART, Australia (AP) — Two more whales died Friday in Australia after a handful that had been refloated a day earlier stranded again.

Some 200 pilot whales have now died from a pod of some 230 that were stranded this week on Tasmania’s wild and remote west coast.

The whales were discovered Wednesday in Macquarie Harbour. About half were still alive initially, but the rough surf killed many more. Wildlife experts on Thursday managed to refloat 32 of the 35 that had survived.

Some of those whales ended up on the beach again on Friday, Tasmanian Department of Natural Resources and Environment Incident Controller Brendon Clark said. He couldn’t confirm an exact number, but he said it was less than 10.

He said that one of the whales died and another needed to be put down.

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s also one of the consequences of these types of events,” Clark told reporters.

He said the priority was to try to refloat the three surviving whales that had been stranded during the incident on a remote part of the beach, as well as any of the whales that were stranded again.

After that would come the process of removing and disposing of the bodies, he said. That would involve gathering them at a central point on the beach.

“That way they can basically be longlined or moored together, ready to be discarded at sea,” Clark said.

Whales are likely to be towed into deep water far from shore so they don’t wash ashore.

Rescuers had hoped to reach the three remote stranded whales Friday night, but faced difficulties due to location and tidal conditions, Clark said. More than 50 government officials and volunteers have participated in the rescue efforts.

The creatures were found two years after the largest mass stranding of whales in Australian history was discovered in the same harbor.

Around 470 longfinned pilot whales were found in 2020 trapped in sandbanks. After a week-long effort, 111 of those whales were rescued but the rest died.

The entrance to the harbor is a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel known as Hell’s Gate.

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