Sri Lanka rescues 120 pilot whales after mass stranding 25km south of Colombo

About 120 pilot whales were stranded on Sri Lanka’s western coast in the island nation’s biggest-ever mass beaching.

The short-finned pilot whales began beaching at Panadura, 25 kilometres south of Colombo, shortly before dusk and within an hour their numbers swelled to over 100, local police chief Sanjaya Irasinghe told AFP.

“With the help of local residents we are trying to push them back (into the ocean),” Irasinghe said.

“But they keep getting washed ashore. We are getting help from the navy to rescue these whales.”

“It is very unusual for such a large number to reach our shores,” MEPA chief Dharshani Lahandapura said.

“We used our small inshore patrol craft to pull the whales one by one back into deeper waters,” navy spokesman Indika de Silva told the AFP news agency after an overnight rescue. “Sadly, two whales have died of the injuries sustained when they beached.”

The reason for their standing was not yet known.

“We think this is similar to the mass stranding in Tasmania in September.”

The beaching of 470 pilot whales in a remote harbour in Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania was the country’s largest-ever. About 110 of the creatures were saved in a days-long rescue effort.