Nan Rice, head of the Dolphin Action and Protection group said 20 pilot whales were successfully rescued, but there was no alternative but to euthanize 34 others, according to the South African Press Association.
“I feel quite sad, but it is the right thing to do,” Rice told SAPA.
One whale died early during the rescue efforts, its body lying motionless on the sand as hundreds of volunteers rushed around trying to rescue the rest of the school.
Braving high winds and rough waves, the rescuers tried to push and drag the three-meter (10-feet) whales out of the knee-deep water and back to sea, but often their struggles were to little avail. Most of the rescuers wore wet suits, but some rushed into the icy waters in normal clothes.
Authorities brought in six bulldozers to push the whales back into the water.
“As soon as we put them back into the sea, they swim back to the beach again,” said National Sea Rescue Institute spokesman Craig Lambinon. “It’s not a very easy situation,” Lambinon said.
Pilot whales are fairly common around South Africa, which is renowned for its whale watching during the winter season, which is in progress. There was no immediate explanation for the rare mass beaching which started early Saturday morning.
Hundreds of onlookers flocked to the beach at Kommitjie, near Cape Point, and they were blocking the main approach road. Lambinon appealed to the public to stay away.
Rice said the doomed whales would be shot through the head with a pistol to save them further stress.
“They are huge animals and are stranded over a vast area. Unfortunately they (the volunteers) couldn’t do it,” SAPA quoted her as saying.
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