Hundreds of dead whales washed up on a New Zealand beach have been cordoned off from the public because they are at risk of exploding as they decompose.
'The area is now closed to the public because of the risk from whales exploding, ' the conservation department said in a statement.
The warning follows good news today, where a number of whales were successfully refloated - with the help of authorities and members of the public - after they beached themselves this morning.
More than 600 whales had become stranded on the beach in the last three days.
The latest pod that got stranded late on Saturday are different from the group of 400 that was stranded on Thursday night at Farewell Spit in Golden Bay.
Officials will soon need to dispose of hundreds of carcasses.
"They swell up - there's a lot of bacteria going on in their stomach - and the gut actually comes out of the animal and then blows", Department of Conservation (DOC) spokesperson Andrew Lamason told Radio New Zealand. More than 500 people worked for days to help save as numerous stranded whales as they could.
The surviving whales were last seen swimming six kilometres offshore on Sunday evening after they were unable to refloat themselves in the high tides.
In 2009, 55 false killer whales found themselves stranded on a South African beach, and in 2016, roughly 80 whales beached themselves on the Bay of Bengal coast in India.
The shallow, sweeping spit is believed to interfere with the whales' navigation systems and is a regular scene of mass strandings.
"People seem to have an emotional attachment to marine mammals", Herb Christophers, a spokesman for the Department of Conservation, told The Associated Press. The problem with towing them out to sea or leaving them is that they could become gaseous and buoyant, and end up causing problems by floating into populated bays. In 1985, about 450 whales stranded in Auckland.
The agency is now trying to figure out what to do with the carcasses of the dead whales.
In this case, it might have also been simply the wrong place at the wrong time for the unfortunate animals, with experts noting that Farewell Spit is a particularly hard place for whales to navigate, as the sand banks reflect sonar poorly.
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