Falcarragh: Five whales die on County Donegal beach

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Media captionVolunteers attempted to save the whales by pouring water over them

Five whales that were stranded on a beach in County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland have died.

A pod of 12 whales was discovered by Jim Mercer at about 07:00 BST.

He was out for a morning run along Falcarragh Strand when he came across a baby pilot whale which was alive.

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Image caption The pod of whales beached in County Donegal

"I was unable to move it into the water on my own so I ran further up the beach to get help and came across another 11 whales", he said.

Two of the whales were already dead.

A rescue mission was launched by the local community to save the rest of them.

Unfortunately, it is understood that four adults and a baby whale have now died.

"It was very sad to pull the baby into the water and then to see it close its eyes, the poor thing had died," Mr Mercer said.

Speaking earlier, Anne Caithness from Londonderry, who is holidaying in the area said: "Diggers are on the beach trying to lift the dead whales to a separate part.

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Image caption Local people trying to get the whales back into the water

"There are hundreds of people down on the beach trying to keep the whales wet and get them back into the water. There are people in the water with their clothes on trying to help and some in wetsuits."

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Image caption Pilot whales on beach

Mr Mercer said that the whales were not keen to re-enter the water.

"When we got them in the water, they swam back to shore further down the beach," he said.

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Image caption Local men Kevin Coyle and Pat O'Grady help the whales back out to sea

"Despite efforts to help them out to sea, they kept coming back."

Mick O'Connell from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group said: "The whales' echo-location may not have been working too well because they were in shallow water.

"It is also possible that one of the whales was sick and accidentally led the entire pod astray."

He told the BBC that there have been several cases of live strandings in recent years.

In 2010, 33 whales died after they were beached on Rutland Island in County Donegal.

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