Whales stranded: 'Awful' scene as 10-member pod dies after becoming stranded off East Yorkshire coast

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A pod of 10 whales which became stranded off the East Yorkshire coast have died.

Members of the coastguard and British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) were called to the beach between Tunstall and Withernsea on Thursday morning to help the mammals as fears grew for their health.

A rescue operation was put on hold earlier due to bad weather and rough seas, and the last of the whales died during the afternoon, BDMLR confirmed.

At least two of the animals were washed up on the beach, where their chances of surviving were slim.

Announcing the news, the BDLMR said: "We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to all of our team involved on the ground and behind the scenes in this awful situation today, of all days for it to happen on, as well as our colleagues in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency who have been on scene all day dealing with these tragic and difficult circumstances."

They also explained it had been impossible to move the creatures to safety.

"Due to the large size and weight of these animals there are no safe methods for lifting and moving live animals of almost 20m length and up to 80 tonnes in weight, nor are there any safe and effective methods available for putting them to sleep either," it said.

A spokeswoman earlier said the pod was thought to be made up of young males who were in "very poor nutritional condition".

The North Sea is a difficult environment for sperm whales as the shallow water has few of the deep-water squids they usually feed on.

It is not known whether post-mortem examinations can take place due to the coronavirus pandemic and the Christmas holidays.

There were some earlier reports of more whales at Spurn Point, but nothing has been found yet.

A spokeswoman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said they had been called by a member of the public who spotted the whales on the shoreline.

Humberside Police Chief Superintendent Darren Downs said: "I understand the public interest in the incident, but I would urge people to stay away from the area to allow the teams from HM Coastguard to manage what is an extremely distressing scene.

"I would also remind people that there is a risk to themselves and others as crowds gather to witness the scene. The COVID-19 pandemic remains a high risk to public health, people should not gather in groups as there is a danger of transmission amongst the crowds."