Five dead off coast of New Zealand after ‘whale overturns small boat’ in Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a popular whale-watching destination

<p>Kaikoura is a popular whale-watching destination (Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)</p>

Kaikoura is a popular whale-watching destination (Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Five people have died after a boat capsized off the coast of New Zealand after it was thought to be overturned by a whale.

But what happened and what have authorities said?

Kaikoura is a popular whale-watching destination (Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Here’s what you need to know.

What happened near the South Island town of Kaikoura?

Five people have died after a boat capsized near the South Island town of Kaikoura off the coast of New Zealand on Saturday (10 September).

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It was thought to be overturned by a whale.

Kaikoura is a popular whale-watching destination, as the sea floor drops quickly off the coast, with deep waters attracting whales.

Police divers recovered the bodies of the dead, with three helicopters involved in the rescue of the survivors.

What have police and the town mayor said?

Six people survived the incident, with their condition being described as stable.

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Five were assessed at a local health centre and the sixth was transferred to a hospital in Christchurch as a precaution, Kaikoura police sergeant Matt Boyce said.

He added: "Our thoughts are with everyone involved, including the victims and their families, their local communities, and emergency services personnel.”

The town’s mayor Craig Mackle told reporters that waters were calm at the time, and the assumption was that a whale surfaced from beneath the boat - which appeared to be a charter vessel of bird watchers - with sperm and humpback whales often travelling through the area.

Mr Mackle said that in the past he had thought about the possibility of a boat and whale colliding given the number of whales that frequent the region, adding: "It always plays on your mind that it could happen.”