Orcas trapped in thick sea ice in northern Japan are believed to be free

At least 10 orcas trapped in sea ice off the coast of northern Japan on Tuesday appear to have escaped, local officials in a nearby city said on Wednesday.

Drone video released by local wildlife organization Wildlife Pro showed killer whales struggling head-on in frozen waters off Hokkaido, Japan.

Drone footage shows a pod of orcas trapped in thick sea ice off northern Japan


Local authorities told public broadcaster NHK that the ice around the whales, which were stranded half a mile off the coast on Tuesday, was too thick for the coast guard to rescue them. However, till Wednesday morning, they were nowhere to be found.

“As a gap in the drift ice began to open up, they may have escaped,” an official in the town of Rausu was quoted as saying by Japan's Kyoto News Agency. They said the animals could no longer be spotted with binoculars from shore.

Rasu is located on Hokkaido's Shiretoko Peninsula, which has been declared a World Natural Heritage Site by the United Nations.

According to Kyoto, about 10 orcas died in the same area in 2005 when they got stuck in the ice.

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