Whales strand in New Zealand: 7 dead, 18 refloated

January 6, 2012 - 11:11 PM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Seven long-finned pilot whales have died after being beached in New Zealand, and rescuers are fighting to save 18 more of the marine mammals.

Seven of the 25-strong pod died after they stranded late Friday on Farewell Spit at the northwest corner of South Island, conservation officials said.

The surviving whales were floated off the beach at high tide. Wildlife official John Mason says they were well offshore by mid-afternoon Saturday but were still in danger as they swam north toward more shallow waters on the ebbing tide.

He warns there's still a risk the whales could come back into the shallows of the long, sloping headland spit area when the tide flowed back in later in the day.