At least 90 pilot whales out of a group of 270 that remained stranded in Australia’s Tasmania have died, officials said Tuesday.
Rescuers managed to save 25 whales and returned them to the sea during an ongoing operation, reports AP.
“We’ve rescued about 25 whales and escorted them out to sea and crews are continuing to work, so that number will increase before we get to the end of the day,” Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service Manager Nic Deka told reporters.
The whales were discovered Monday on a beach and two sand bars near the west coast town of Strahan. Sixty people have joined the rescue effort.
Wildlife biologist Kris Carlyon said progress would be slow. “We’ll take the animals with the best chance to start with and the ones that we are able to deal with,” he said.
About one third of the whales had died by Monday night and most were inaccessible by boat, Carlyon said.
He also said that pilot whales are a robust species and the survivors have a chance of lasting several days if the weather stays cool.
Tasmania is prone to whale stranding but this is the largest mass stranding on Australia's most southern state in years.
Authorities do not know why the whales became stranded.
In an effort to curb the coronavirus infections, Australia’s hotspot Victoria State has extended its state of emergency for another six months on Wednesday as its weekly average of new coronavirus infections dipped.
The Victorian Parliament’s upper chamber passed legislation by a 20-19 vote to extend the state of emergency, which enhances the government’s powers to impose pandemic restrictions.
The state health department reported 90 new infections and six deaths in the latest 24-hour period. There were only 70 new infections reported on Tuesday.
The latest seven-day average of new reported infections has dropped into double-digits — 95 — for the first time in weeks. The previous week’s average was 175 infections a day.
The government had wanted a 12-month extension.
Coronavirus situation in Asia-Pacific region:
India has reported 78,357 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, raising the country’s tally to more than 3.7 million reported cases since the pandemic began.
The climb comes as the government eases pandemic restrictions to help the battered economy.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday also reported 1,045 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 66,333.
India has been reporting the most new daily cases in the world for more than three weeks. India has also increased its testing capacity — nearly 100,000 per day — but experts say it is not enough.
Besides, South Korea has seen a triple-digit daily jump in reported coronavirus infections for the 20th straight day, prompting authorities in recent days to impose tough social distancing rules.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday the 267 new cases took the country’s tally since the pandemic began to 20,449 reported infections with 326 deaths.
South Korea has seen a rise in infections since early last month, many associated with churches, restaurants and schools.
Authorities have recently restricted dining at restaurants and ordered the shutdown of churches, fitness centers and night establishments in the Seoul area as it struggles to track many of the new infections.
The premier of Australia’s hard-hit Victoria state has declared a disaster among growing new coronavirus restrictions across Melbourne and elsewhere from Sunday night.
Premier Daniel Andrews says the state of disaster proclamation gave police greater power.
He says 671 new coronavirus cases had been detected since Saturday, including seven deaths. It comes among a steadily increasing toll in both deaths and infections over the past six weeks in Victoria.
“If we don’t make these changes, we’re not going to get through this,” Andrews said. “We need to do more. That is what these decisions are about.”
An evening curfew will be implemented across Melbourne from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
He said there would be more announcements about workplaces on Monday, including the closure of certain industries.
“I want to ensure all Victorians — supermarkets, the butcher, the baker, food, beverage, groceries, those types of settings — there will be no impact there,” he said.
Melbourne residents will only be allowed to shop and exercise within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of their homes. All students across the state will return to home-based learning and child care centers will be closed.
The deaths in Victoria took the national toll to 208.
Also Sunday, New South Wales confirmed its first coronavirus-related death in more than a month as authorities sought to suppress a number of growing clusters at a hotel and several restaurants in Sydney.
Coronavirus-forced restrictions in Melbourne could be tightened from next week as authorities try to stem the spread of COVID-19, report Australian media.
It comes as Australia’s COVID-19 death toll rose to 201, with Victoria state leaders considering New Zealand-style lockdowns to get community transmission under control. Victoria on Saturday reported the deaths of a man and two women aged in their 80s and 90s, and 397 new cases.
The Sunday Age reported the city may be placed under a six-week period of more stringent constraints, including the almost complete shutdown of Melbourne’s public transport network, starting from Wednesday.
The Sunday Herald Sun reports Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews will announce the new measures over the next two days.
They also include limiting the distance residents could travel from their homes and the closure of more businesses selling non-essential goods.
The state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said stricter lockdowns like those enforced in New Zealand were being considered. Under the New Zealand model, all businesses would shut down except for essential services.
On Sunday, New South Wales confirmed its first coronavirus-related death in more than a month as authorities sought to suppress a number of growing clusters at a hotel and several restaurants in Sydney.
Traditional crowds at dawn services for the Anzac Day memorial holiday in Australia were replaced with candlelit vigils in driveways and neighbors gathering to listen to buglers play "The Last Post."
Restrictions on crowds and social distancing due to the coronavirus meant that the usual packed dawn services in cities and towns across the country were not held. The holiday, also celebrated in New Zealand, marks the anniversary of New Zealand and Australian soldiers, known as Anzacs, landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.
More than 10,000 soldiers from the two countries were killed during that World War I campaign in what's now Turkey, although Anzac Day honors those killed in all wars.
In the national capital Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke at a crowd-free commemorative service held inside the Australian War Memorial. A didgeridoo sounded the beginning of the service.
In the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga, trumpeter Lewis Ketteridge, 8, and French horn player Grace Colville, 16, were among a dozen brass players playing "The Last Post" from their driveways at dawn before 40 residents observed a minute's silence.
"Strangely, it made it more moving that people were still willing to commemorate Anzac Day instead of just letting it go by," said resident Catherine Colville.
She said the community carefully maintained social distancing as they placed candles, pictures of serving ancestors and wreaths of native leaves and flowers under an Australian flag hanging on a tree.
Marches and gatherings were canceled for only the third time — the last time in 1942 and previously during the devastating Spanish flu outbreak of 1918.
In New Zealand, where even tighter crowd restrictions are in place, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stood at dawn on the driveway of Premier House, the leader's official residence, for a ceremony.
Thousands around New Zealand participated in the "Stand at Dawn" initiative, and in one Christchurch suburb, bagpiper Tom Glove greeted the families that gathered at each driveway with a rendition of "Amazing Grace."