Whale carcass dug up from Australian beach over shark fears

This handout photo shows a digger being used in the removal of a massive humpback whale buried on Nobbys Beach at Port Macquarie some 400 kilometers (240 miles) north of Sydney on 25 September, 2017. (Port Macquarie-Hastings Council via AFP)
Updated 25 September 2017
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Whale carcass dug up from Australian beach over shark fears

SYDNEY: A massive humpback whale buried on a popular Australian beach after it washed up dead was being exhumed Monday because locals feared its rotting carcass was attracting sharks.
The 18-ton animal came ashore entangled in fishing ropes last week at Nobbys Beach in holiday hotspot Port Macquarie on the New South Wales coast, 400 kilometers (240 miles) north of Sydney.
Authorities tried to drag the 12-meter (40-foot) whale back to sea, but gave up when it became caught on rocks.
With only a pedestrian pathway leading to the beach and no road access, the local council winched down a small digger to bury the dead creature.
But concerns that oil and decaying blubber were seeping into the ocean soon sparked a community backlash, with a spate of shark sightings close to shore ahead of school holidays, when beaches in the area are usually packed.
Under mounting pressure, the state government stepped in with enough cash to fund the removal of the decomposing animal.
A large crane was set up on the cliff edge Monday and mechanical excavators lowered to the sand, where they set about digging up the carcass and ripping it apart to be taken to a landfill site.
“We are using an excavator with big teeth on its bucket to actually cut the whale in pieces. It’s quite a job,” Port Macquarie council’s environment director Matt Rogers told reporters.
“There are overseas experiences where whales have been taken off beaches... but nothing like we’re seeing here with skip bins being winched up an escarpment, a crane reaching out 60 meters.”
Surf school owner Wayne Hudson said locals were delighted the council had acted.
“The community got behind the idea of pulling out the whale carcass for a varied number of reasons and we went to council and respectfully asked for it to be removed,” he told broadcaster ABC.
“Council listened and jumped on... everyone I’ve been speaking to in the community’s just so stoked about it.”
Each year humpback whales migrate north from the Antarctic to the warmer climate off Australia’s north coast to mate and give birth.


Ebola cases in DR Congo rise to 78, 44 dead

Updated 6 min 13 sec ago
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Ebola cases in DR Congo rise to 78, 44 dead

BENI, DR Congo: Seventy-eight cases of Ebola have been recorded in an outbreak in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, claiming 44 lives, DRC officials and the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.
The latest outbreak of the viral disease, which is highly contagious and frequently fatal if untreated, has prompted a visit by the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the health ministry said in a statement.
“In all, 78 cases of haemorrhagic fever have been reported in the region, of which 51 are confirmed and 27 probable” while “24 suspect cases are under investigation,” according to reports from Congolese authorities and the WHO.
Confirmed cases are verified by way of laboratory tests on samples taken from patients. The cases treated as “probable” often concern diseased people who had a close epidemiological link with confirmed cases, but have not been tested.
Congolese authorities reported “two deaths of confirmed cases at Beni” — a trading town with a population approaching a quarter of a million people in North Kivu province.
There were also “five new confirmed cases at Mabalako, including a health worker at the Health Reference Center in Mangina,” the epicenter of the outbreak in the Beni region.
“We are expecting to see more cases,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.
The outbreak is the tenth to strike the DRC since 1976, when Ebola was first identified and named after a river in the north of the country.
It affects a part of the country wracked by violence for more than 20 years, from all-out war to insurgency and sustained ethnic clashes.
Forty-one deaths were reported in North Kivu and three in neighboring Ituri region to the north, according to the health ministry.
Congolese Health Minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga had talks with the director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, regarding CDC training programs for epidemiologists in the field, an official statement said.
The ministry’s directorate for disease control announced on Tuesday that doctors in Beni had started to use a novel treatment called mAb114 to treat patients with Ebola.
The treatment is “the first therapeutic drug against the virus to be used in an active Ebola epidemic in the DRC,” it said.
mAb114 is an antibody initially isolated from a survivor of an Ebola outbreak in the western DRC city of Kikwit in 1995, it added.
Ebola has long been considered incurable, though swift isolation and the rapid treatment of symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration has helped some of the patients to survive.
The quest for a vaccine grew increasingly urgent during an Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people in West African neighboring states Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2013-15.