Seven pilot whales die in mass stranding on South Africa beach

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Nineteen pilot whales washed up on a Cape Town beach in South Africa Sunday, and seven of them died, sea rescue officials said, prompting a frenzy to save the remaining giant mammals.

"We don't know what might have caused the mass whale stranding. Unfortunately, seven have died," said Mr Craig Lambinon, spokesman for the National Sea Rescue Institute.

He said efforts were under way to release the surviving whales back into the sea and to dispose of the seven carcasses.

The scene at Noordhoek beach on the Atlantic coast attracted dozens of curious onlookers who eagerly snapped pictures of the creatures, as rescuers tried to hose down the surviving animals.

Pilot whales are members of the dolphin family and grow up to 6m long. The reason why they beach themselves is unknown, although scientists speculate it may occur when their sonar becomes scrambled in shallow water.

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