It was a whale of a problem on Tuesday for officials to save 81 short finned pilot whales that beached near a village in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin district but they only managed to help less than half survive.
"Eighty one whales were beached. We tried to take all of them back into the sea with the use of boats. While 36 whales swam away, 45 died," a fisheries department official told IANS.
The whales got beached off last night of Manpadu and Alanthalai villages in Tuticorin district, around 600 km from here.
The district administration led by Collector M.Ravikumar mounted the massive rescue effort.
The whales were gently tied to boats of local fishermen and released mid sea but some returned towards the beach.
Around ten boats made the sorties with one whale each trip.
However officials were not able tell the probable reasons for the whales beaching in large numbers.
Speaking to reporters, Ravikumar said officials would investigate into the reasons for the whales getting beached.
"The whales could have been under stress. It could be due to coastal pollution by industrial effluents or even due to noise made by boats or ships," R.Rajaram, assistant professor, department of marine science, Bharathidasan University told IANS over phone from Tiruchirapalli.
In a statement, the Indian Coast Guard said it extended its helping hand in rescuing several whales off Alanthalai and Manapadu beach, noting the short finned pilot whales are normally found in Pacific Ocean.
Fishing boats were employed for pulling them to the deeper part of the sea against all the risks involved, it said.
The wildlife department in coordination with state administration is arranging for the burial of the dead whales.