Nearly 150 dolphins feared dead after beaching in Japan

Updated 11 April 2015

Nearly 150 dolphins feared dead after beaching in Japan

HOKOTA: Rescuers were forced to abandon efforts to save around 150 melon-headed whales that stranded on a beach in Japan on Friday, after franticly trying all day to save them.
As darkness fell, local officials in Hokota, about 100 km northeast of Tokyo, said they had been able to save only three of the 149 animals that had beached and that the rescue effort had been called off.
The rest of the creatures, a member of the dolphin family usually found in the deep ocean, had either died or were dying, they said.
“It was becoming dark and too dangerous to continue the rescue work at this beach, where we could not bring heavy equipment,” said an unnamed Hokota city official.
“Many people volunteered to rescue them but the dolphins became very, very weak.”
“Only three of them have been successfully returned to the sea, as far as we can confirm,” he added.
Locals and coastguard teams had battled through the day to save the animals, trying to stop their skin from drying out as they lay on the sand. Others were carried in slings back toward the ocean.
Television footage showed several animals from the large pod had been badly cut, and many had deep gashes to their skin.
An AFP journalist at the scene said that some of the creatures were being pushed back onto the beach by the tide soon after being released, despite efforts to return them to the water.
“We see one or two whales washing ashore a year, but this may be the first time we have found over 100 of them on a beach,” a coastguard official told AFP.
The pod was stretched out along a roughly 10-kilometre-long stretch of beach in the Ibaraki area, where they were found by locals early Friday morning.
“They are alive. I feel sorry for them,” one man at the scene told public broadcaster NHK, as others ferried buckets of seawater to the stranded animals to pour over them.
Massive efforts were required to get the three that survived back into the water. Rescuers wrapped them with blankets before putting them on a coastguard vessel. The animals were taken to waters about 10 kilometres from the shore and released, according to NHK.


Belarus authorities free detainees amid protesters’ pressure

Updated 11 min 41 sec ago

Belarus authorities free detainees amid protesters’ pressure

  • Around midnight, scores of detainees were seen walking out of one of Minsk’s jails
  • The releases came hours after Belarus’ top law enforcement official apologized on state television for the indiscriminate use of force by police

MINSK, Belarus: Belarusian authorities have released dozens of people detained amid demonstrations contesting the results of the presidential election, in an attempt to assuage public anger against a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests.
Around midnight, scores of detainees were seen walking out of one of Minsk’s jails. In the early morning, volunteers also saw at least 119 detainees being released in the сity of Zhodino just northeast of the Belarusian capital. Ambulances arrived to carry those who apparently were unable to walk on their own.
The releases came hours after Belarus’ top law enforcement official apologized on state television for the indiscriminate use of force by police. “I take responsibility for what they say was violence against those people, who happened to be nearby and failed to back off quickly enough,” Interior Minister Yuri Karayev said late Thursday.
The apologies and the release of detainees follow five days of massive protests, in which crowds of demonstrators swarmed the streets to contest the vote results and demand an end to the 26-year rule of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko. On Thursday, thousands of workers rallied outside industrial plants to denounce the police crackdown and push for a recount of Sunday’s vote.
Nearly 7,000 people have been detained and hundreds injured in the clampdown on demonstrators protesting the official results that said Lukashenko won 80% of the vote and his top opposition challenger only 10%. Police have broken up protests with stun grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets and severe beatings.
On Thursday, hundreds of women formed long “lines of solidarity” in several areas of the capital, Minsk. Many were dressed in white and carried flowers and portraits of detained loved ones.
The human chains grew throughout the day, filling Minsk’s main central squares and avenues and spreading to numerous other cities as motorists honked in support. In Minsk and several other cities, thousands of factory workers also rallied against the police violence, raising the prospect of strikes in a new challenge to the government. Protesters were shouting “Go away!” to demand Lukashenko’s resignation.
Amid growing public dismay, dozens of military and police veterans posted videos in which they dumped their uniforms and insignia in the trash. Several popular anchors at Belarus’ state TV stations have quit.
The demonstrations have spread even though the protest lacks leaders. The top opposition challenger in the vote, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, suddenly emerged Tuesday in neighboring Lithuania and called on her supporters to stop protests in a video that her associates said was recorded under pressure from law enforcement officials before she left. The 37-year-old former teacher had joined the race to replace her husband, an opposition blogger, who has been jailed since May.
The massive protests against election results and police brutality have been an unprecedented challenge to Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 and earned the nickname of “Europe’s last dictator” for his relentless crackdown on dissent. The scope and ferocity of the police clampdown were remarkable even for Lukashenko’s iron-fisted rule, triggering widespread anger.
After dismissing protesters as mostly ex-convicts and unemployed, the authoritarian leader kept silent Thursday as the demonstrations spread quickly. Some reports said he was preparing an address to the nation.
A protester died Monday in Minsk when, according to the Interior Ministry, an explosive device he tried to throw at police blew up in his hand. Media reports challenged the ministry’s claim, alleging that he was killed by police. The place where he died quickly turned into a pilgrimage site, with hundreds of people, including European ambassadors, laying flowers there.
The authorities said that a detainee died in the southeastern city of Gomel, but the circumstances of his death weren’t immediately clear.
The brutal suppression of protests drew harsh criticism in the West.
European Union foreign ministers are set to meet Friday to discuss a response, and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the 27-nation bloc would “increase the pressure” on Belarus.