RENNES, France - A beluga whale stranded in the Seine river in northern France for more than a week has died during an attempt to rescue it, local officials said Wednesday.
"Despite an unprecedented rescue operation we must announce with sadness that the cetacean has died," the authorities in the Normandy region of Calvados tweeted, adding that the whale had to be put down during transport.
The four-metre (13-foot) whale was spotted more than a week ago heading towards Paris and was stranded about 130 kilometers (81 miles) inland from the Channel at Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne in Normandy.
After nearly six hours of work by dozens of divers and rescuers, the 800-kilogram (1,800-pound) cetacean was lifted from the river by a net and crane at around 4:00 am (0200 GMT) Wednesday and placed on a barge under the immediate care of a dozen veterinarians.
The beluga, a protected species usually found in cold Arctic waters, was then given a health check and driven in a refrigerated truck toward the coastal town of Ouistreham.
Officials in Eure, where the beluga was stranded, earlier said the whale was worryingly thin.
"It bodes, according to veterinarians, for a poor vital prognosis," the Eure prefecture said in a statement after the rescue operation, which it said was "particularly complex".
© Agence France-Presse