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A boat off the coast of New Zealand reportedly struck a whale on Saturday morning, leaving two people dead and three others missing.
The incident occurred near the South Island town of Kaikōura, according to New Zealand news bulletin Stuff.
Kaikōura Mayor Craig Mackle confirmed that 11 people were on the boat at the time of the accident and that six people made it ashore safely.
He said the water was “really cold” and that the result for anyone who fell overboard would likely be negative.
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The mayor said the locals were helping with relief efforts, but the mood in the city was “gloomy” awaiting updates on those who had disappeared.
Mackle said the water was calm and the whale is believed to have emerged from under the boat and capsized it. He wasn’t sure what type of whale hit the boat, but he said there were some sperm whales and humpback whales in the area.
Although he had not heard of previous cases of a boat and a whale colliding, the mayor said he had thought about the possibility in the past due to the number of whales in the area.
“It always occurs to you that it could happen,” he said.
Police said in a statement that they were responding to an incident involving a boat that reportedly capsized. They also said a boat ramp was blocked to the public.
Local, Vanessa Chapman, who witnessed the rescue from Goose Bay, which is near Kaikōura, told Stuff she saw a person sitting on top of an overturned boat waving his arms.
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Chapman said two rescue helicopters and a local helicopter were circling before a couple of divers jumped out. He said that the person on top of the boat was rescued and that it looked like a second person had been pulled out of the water.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.