MITO, Ibaraki Pref. (Kyodo) Twenty-two melon-headed whales that had washed ashore in Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture, were rescued and returned to the sea Saturday by authorities and local volunteers.

About 50 of the whales were found beached Friday night.

Around 200 people, including staff from Ibaraki’s Oarai Aquarium, municipal government officials and local residents and surfers tried to save the whales by keeping them hydrated while they tried to refloat them, but about 30 of them died, according to the municipal government.

It took around eight hours to return the surviving whales to the sea, the officials said, adding they buried the bodies of the dead whales on the shore nearby.

Melon-headed whales are commonly seen offshore around the area in early spring, and they may have been drawn into shallow waters while searching for food, said Masayuki Shimada, chief of the marine animal exhibition section of Oarai Aquarium.

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