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20 beached whales die, 26 are saved

SANTIAGO, Chile, Feb. 27 (UPI) — Officials said 20 beached killer whales died in Southern Chile, while local fisherman, scientists and authorities were able to put 26 others back into the sea.

Fisherman discovered a pod of almost 50 false killer whales, or black orcas, Sunday afternoon on the Caleta Susana beach in the Strait of Magellan, The Santiago Times said.

The fisherman alerted the Navy, who helped them save the 26 whales, which are 18 feet long and can weigh between 2,000 and 4,400 pounds, the newsapaper said.

The reason why the pod became stranded is not known.

“We are thinking of two possibilities. It is probable that the cetaceans were looking for food and followed a school of fish, ending up getting lost, but the other possibility is that some killer whales pursued them. Local fishermen said they had seen some of them in the area that same day,” Jorge Sierpe Gallardo, the director of the region’s National Service of Fishing and Aquaculture said.

Authorities are now watching the coast in order to prevent another similar grounding incident from happening, the Times said.

Copyright 2013 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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