At least 45 pilot whales died after they were stranded on beaches in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu overnight, officials said Tuesday.
The beached whales were found near coastal villages over a 25-kilometre stretch, said M Ravi Kumar, the top administrator of Tuticorin, a coastal district on the southern tip of India.
"These are short-finned pilot whales. Scientists say the group was disoriented. This is the first time since 1973, when 120 whales were stranded, that such an incident has happened here," Kumar said.
At least 45 of the 80 whales that had washed ashore have died, Deepak Bilgi, wildlife warden of the Gulf of Munnar Marine National Park, said.
A team from the Tuticorin-based Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute and fishermen were helping local government officials to rescue the whales, which were first seen stranded Monday night.
"Local fishermen pushed most of them back but larger numbers were seen back on the shore early Tuesday," said Bilgi, who had joined the team.
"Fishermen and officials dragged many whales into the sea, but several returned to the shore," Kumar said.