From: Associated Press
Published March 3, 2005 12:00 AM

Rescuers Struggle to Save Trapped Whales in Russian Far East

MOSCOW — Rescuers armed with fuel-powered saws hacked through the ice near Russia's far eastern territories Wednesday in a desperate bid to save the lives of three whales thrashing about in confined holes in the freezing Sea of Okhotsk, Russian media reported.


Dozens of volunteers from the island of Iturup, among the disputed Kuril chain that lies off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, ventured onto the ice 70-90 meters (230-295 feet) from the coast to try to widen the holes to enable the killer whales to move freely.


Russian television reported that 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of thick ice separated the giant animals from the open sea.


Of a group of six killer whales that got into the ice trap several days ago, three of the biggest have died, the Rossiya television channel said. The other three animals were bleeding from their heads and fins from trying to break through the ice.


"They've been offering them fish, but the whales have been through a lot of stress and they are refusing food. We are hoping that the wind will change and move the ice toward the open sea," local fire chief Yevgeny Sadovsky told Rossiya by telephone from remote Iturup.


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Temperatures have dropped to -25 C (-13 F), making the rescuers' task harder. A vast slab of ice has formed along the coast, blocking the whales from the open sea. The mammals cannot move under the ice because they need air to breathe.


Source: Associated Press


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