50 whales die after beaching in Japan

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About 50 whales were found dead today after they beached for a second time on a beach near Tokyo, despite an earlier attempt to redirect them to the sea, an official said today.

The dead whales were among a pod of about 70 melon-headed whales that had first beached themselves in Ichinomiya, about 40 miles east of Tokyo on the Pacific coast, early yesterday morning, said Ichinomiya town official Mieko Ishii.

Surfers and local residents had helped return the whales to sea, but by this morning the pod had run itself back up on the shore, Ishii said.

She said about 50 whales were found dead, while the remaining 20 - each measuring about 2 meters (3.3 foot) long - were transported to a relatively calm fishing port and would be released into the sea at a later date.

Experts would examine some of the dead mammals to determine a cause of the death, while the remaining will be buried in the town, Ishii said.

The whales resemble dolphins and usually inhabit only deep water. It was not immediately known why such a large number of the whales washed up at one time, Ishii said.