In pics: NZ warns of exploding carcasses after hundreds of whales wash ashore | world-news | Hindustan Times
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In pics: NZ warns of exploding carcasses after hundreds of whales wash ashore

New Zealand authorities were cutting holes in 300 whale carcasses on Monday, popping the dead animals “like balloons”, to avoid them exploding as they decompose on Golden Bay after more than 600 whales became stranded.

world Updated: Feb 13, 2017 18:29 IST
Whales stranded at Farewell Spit near Nelson, New Zealand.
Whales stranded at Farewell Spit near Nelson, New Zealand.(AP Photo)

New Zealand authorities were cutting holes in 300 whale carcasses on Monday, popping the dead animals “like balloons”, to avoid them exploding as they decompose on Golden Bay after more than 600 whales became stranded.

Hundreds of rescuers managed to save around 400 pilot whales on the South Island beach on the weekend after one of New Zealand’s largest whale strandings.

But hundreds of whales died on the beach and the Department of Conservation (DOC) cordoned off the bodies and urged the public to call them if they found whale carcasses that had floated off the beach and washed up on nearby shores.

This picture taken on February 11, 2017 shows fishermen looking at pilot whales which died in a mass stranding at Farewell Spit. (AFP Photo)

“The area is currently closed to the public because of the risk from whales exploding,” the conservation department said in a statement.

Workers in protective clothing would spend the day cutting holes in the whale carcasses, “like popping balloons” with knives and two metre (six feet) needles, to release internal gases that build up pressure, a DOC spokesman told local radio.

Volunteers formed a human chain in the water on Friday as they tried to save about 100 whales after more than 400 of the creatures beached themselves (REUTERS)
A volunteer caring for a pilot whale during a mass stranding at Farewell Spit. (AFP Photo)
It would take several months for the bodies to decompose and turn into skeletons. (REUTERS)

The surviving whales were last seen swimming six kms (four miles) offshore on Sunday evening, according to DOC.

Last Thursday a pod of about 400 whales became stranded, with a second pod of more than 200 whales stranded on Saturday.

The precise cause of the whale strandings was not known.

A dead pilot whale on the beach as volunteers care for other pilot whales. (AFP Photo)

Beached whales are not uncommon on Golden Bay. Its shallow muddy waters confuse the whale’s sonar, leaving it vulnerable to stranding by an ebb tide, according to marine environmental organisation Project Jonah.

A sign during a mass stranding of pilot whales at Farewell Spit. About three-quarters of the pilot whales were already dead when they were found Friday morning at Farewell Spit at the tip of the South Island. (AFP Photo)

Pilot whales are not listed as endangered, but little is known about their population in New Zealand waters.