Canada: Killer Whales Trapped In Sea Ice

About a dozen killer whales have become trapped in a vast stretch of sea ice in Hudson Bay, Canada.

The animals, stuck in the waters near the remote Inuit community of Inukjuak in Quebec, are taking it in turns to gasp for breath through a hole in the ice.

It was about the size of a van but is reportedly shrinking due to freezing temperatures.

The whales are said to be panicking at times in their desperate bid to get oxygen.

The mammals' distress has prompted the locals, who do not have the equipment to rescue them, to issue an appeal for outside assistance.

The mayor of the small community in northern Quebec called on the Canadian government to send an icebreaker as soon as possible to crack open the ice and help orcas to find open water.

Mayor Peter Inukpuk said there were 11 whales, including several small ones, which could mean they are all from the same family.

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans said it was sending officials to assess the situation and would "explore every option possible".

A hunter first spotted the whales on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay on Tuesday.

Dozens of villagers have made the one-hour snowmobile ride to see the unusual spectacle.

They snapped photos and shot video footage of the killer whales surfacing in the opening.

One woman who made the journey to the gap in the ice said even a curious polar bear had approached the hole amid the commotion. The bear was later shot by a local hunter for its meat.

The locals believe a sudden drop in temperature recently caught the orcas off guard, leaving them boxed in under the ice.

Inukjuak, which has a population of 1,800 people, is about 1,500km (900 miles) north of Montreal.

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