SIXTEEN whales including three calves have died after they beached on the east coast of Scotland.
The pilot whales were among a herd of 26 which became stranded in a cove between Anstruther and Pittenweem just after 7am yesterday morning.
Rescue teams initially managed to refloat ten whales at high tide at 4:30pm yesterday.
A spokeswoman from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue said they were “hopeful” for the pilot whales that are still in the water and would monitor them for the next 24 hours.
Fears were also raised about another 24 pilot whales which were in shallow water, three miles along the coast at Cellardyke, but the spokeswoman said none had beached. Volunteers joined the coastguard, Fire Brigade, British Divers Marine Life Rescue, SSPCA and local vets in attempting to rescue the whales.
Onlookers crowded at the scene and police officers were brought in to control the area and to prevent people trying to help the whales.
David Galloway, a fish filleter from Anstruther, said: “I went down to the beach at about 12pm and I could see all the whales. It was horrible. I have never seen anything like it in my life.
“We were told we couldn’t go down on to the beach, but we could see rescuers beside the whales, they were trying to take care of them, trying to keep them moist. They were waiting for the tide to come in. It was just horrible.”
David Maiden, 59, club secretary at The Anstruther Golf Course, added: “It’s really upsetting to think this can happen on your doorstep. I was playing golf this morning and it was horrible to think of the 30-odd whales near where I was playing, and I’ve heard there are even more at Cellardyke.
“The place is really busy and there are lots of people buzzing about, you can see a real crowd forming. It happened in a cove
between the golf course and
Pittenweem, and I honestly can’t think of anything like this ever happening here before.”
A spokeswoman for the Fife Coastguard said: “It is a very rare occurrence in Scotland and very sad.
“The usual scenario would be that the whale that is leading the group has become ill, or has lost its way, and gets beached and the rest will follow on. Although we do not know for sure if that is what has happened.
“We would like to discourage members of the public from hanging about at the scene as it is not very nice for them to see what is happening.”
A spokeswoman from Fife Fire and Rescue said the unit had two appliances at the scene to assist Fife Coastguard to keep the whales wet.
Twitter users took to the social media site. Caroline Rigby posted: “Looking into the Fife stranded whales rescue. Amazing pictures. So very sad. Have goosebumps watching it. Poor whales.”