At least 380 pilot whales have died off the coast of Tasmania in what experts are calling Australia’s largest recorded mass-stranding event.
Nearly 500 whales have been stranded on a beach and two sandbars along the western coast of the island state.
Initial reports on Monday said that 270 whales, some of which had already died, were stranded at three sites. Then authorities surveying the area by helicopter on Wednesday discovered another 200 that were stranded about 6 miles to the south — but all of those animals were confirmed dead.
Rescue efforts are focused on the larger group of 270, which is stranded near the town of Strahan, The Guardian reports. About 50 whales in that group have now been freed and have found their way to the open ocean. An estimated 90 in that group were already dead when authorities found them.
“We will continue working to free as many of the live animals as we can,” Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Manager Nic Deka told news outlets, including The Sydney Morning Herald.