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10 Sep, 2022 18:00

Five dead in ‘whale attack’

A boat carrying birdwatchers capsized off New Zealand after “colliding” with a whale
Five dead in ‘whale attack’

A boat with 11 on board has capsized off Kaikoura, New Zealand, according to local authorities. Police described the accident as an “unprecedented” and “tragic” event, confirming five dead, while six others were rescued from the waters.

Local mayor blamed the accident on a sneaky whale, which allegedly tipped the boat, striking it from beneath.

“We have an upturned boat tipped over by a whale from what we can understand, come up from underneath. We’ve shut the harbor down so that they can carry on working,” Kaikoura mayor Craig Mackle told broadcaster RNZ. Bad weather has been already ruled out as a potential cause of the event, as the sea conditions were “perfect, flat” at the time of the sinking, according to the official.

Footage circulating online shows some of the survivors sitting atop the overturned boat.

Police, however, has so far abstained from pinning the blame on the marine mammal, stating only the boat suffered a “collision” with an unidentified object.

The capsized vessel is believed to have been charted by a group of bird enthusiasts, with formal identifications of the victims still in progress. All the six survivors, including the boat’s skipper, have been discharged from hospital, with only one of them having sustaining minor injuries.

New Zealand’s maritime authorities have dispatched investigators to Kaikoura to establish all the circumstances of the capsizing and to determine whether the whale was indeed to blame.

“Any investigation activity will commence only after rescue/recovery operations have concluded. We'll be conducting a thorough investigation under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Maritime Transport Act and we'll do everything we can to support NZ Police in their investigation,” Tracy Phillips, Maritime NZ Principal Investigator, told local media.