Fears of mass whale stranding off Scottish island

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Marine experts said Friday they feared a mass stranding of up to 100 pilot whales off the Western Isles of Scotland.

The whales were spotted off the coast of South Uist on Thursday. Television pictures showed a number appeared to have cuts to their heads, probably caused by the whales' attempts to strand themselves on the rocks of the sea loch.

Whales often try to beach themselves when they are unwell, but healthy whales are likely to follow.

Rescuers said the whales were highly "vocal", which could indicate they are in pain.

Inflatable pontoons to refloat the whales are being sent to the area and volunteers from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) were rushing to reach the mammals.

Alistair Jack, BDMLR's Scottish co-ordinator, said: "We first became aware of the incident late yesterday and have immediately responded.

"We anticipate having trained medics and rescue equipment on the scene by mid-morning. This is one of the largest events of this kind ever in the country."

© 2011 AFP

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