A BOAT has capsized after a whale surfaced under it, killing five people in a horrific incident off the coast of New Zealand.
The ship had 11 people on board when the whale is said to have gone up underneath it and capsized it.
A major rescue operation has been launched near Kaikoura, off New Zealand’s South Island.
Two passengers were reported dead early this morning, of which three are still missing.
The missing passengers are now confirmed dead as well.
Those on board are believed to be a group of women over 50 who are passionate about birds, New Zealand news organization Stuff reported.
The six surviving passengers were brought back to shore after the horrific incident near Goose Bay.
Police confirmed the 8.5m-long boat capsized after the collision and are still investigating exactly what happened.
The vessel involved is understood to belong to a local fishing charter business Fish Kaikoura.
It organizes a variety of fishing excursions and the captain is very experienced, according to the company’s website.
“This is an unprecedented event,” said Kaikoura Police Sergeant Matt Boyce.
He added that there has been “significant response by emergency services and members of the public, and the Kaikōura maritime community”.
The sheriff continued: “This is a tragic event and the police are supporting those involved at this very difficult time.”
Kaikoura Mayor Craig Mackle was emotional as he described Saturday’s incident as a “tragic event that affects us all”.
He said sea conditions were “really very good” at the time and there have been several large whale sightings recently.
Pilot Daniel Stevenson, one of the first on the scene, told Stuff: “We saw a boat capsize with a friend on it and the coast guard arrived shortly after.
“We basically went down to look and make sure that, if someone was floating on the water, we could keep an eye on them until they could get a boat next to them and rescued from the water.
“The Coast Guard got there pretty quickly after we arrived – about a minute later.”