A boat has capsized after a whale surfaced under it, killing five in a horror incident off the coast of New Zealand.
The vessel had 11 people on board when the whale is believed to have come up underneath it, flipping it over.
A major rescue operation was launched close to Kaikoura, off New Zealand’s South Island.
Two passengers were pronounced dead earlier this morning, with three still missing.
The missing passengers are now confirmed to have also died.
Those on board were believed to have been a group of women over the age of 50 who were bird enthusiasts, New Zealand news organization Stuff reported.
The six surviving passengers were taken back to shore following the horror incident near Goose Bay.
Police confirmed the 8.5m boat capsized following the collision and were still investigating exactly what happened.
The vessel involved is understood to belong to a local fishing charter business Fish Kaikoura.
It hosts a variety of fishing tours and the skipper was very experienced, according to the company’s website.
“This is an unprecedented event that has occurred,” Kaikoura Police Sergeant Matt Boyce said.
He added that there had been a “significant response of emergency services and members of the public, and Kaikōura maritime community”.
The police chief went on: “This has been a tragic event and the police are providing support to those involved at this very difficult time.”
Kaikoura’s mayor Craig Mackle appeared emotional as he described Saturday’s incident as a “tragic event that affects us all”.
He said that the sea conditions were “really, really” good at the time and that there had been several large whale sightings recently.
Pilot Daniel Stevenson who was one of the first on the scene told Stuff: “We saw an upturned boat with a fella sitting on top of it and the coastguard arrived shortly afterwards.
“We basically went down to have a look and make sure, if there was anybody floating in the water, that we could keep an eye on them until they were able to get a boat alongside and be rescued out of the water.
“The coastguard boat was there pretty quickly after we arrived – about a minute or so afterwards.”