The seven sperm whales were found stranded on a beach in the Punta Aderci nature reserve at around 7.00am by surfers in the seaside town of Vasto, Tgcom24 reported.
Three of the whales have died and the other four have now been safely assisted back into the sea by rescuers.
— AM (@oltre_misura) September 12, 2014
The whales, which measure between 11 and 12 metres and weigh around 11 tons each, had been spotted off the coast of Croatia a few days earlier.
The release of the first whale was announced on the Facebook page of the town’s Civil Protection authority.
Another whale, which was injured and had a fishing net in its mouth, was then released with the help of around 100 volunteers, Tgcom24 said. After a few hours two other whales were also helped back to the sea.
Vasto’s mayor Luciano Lapenna said the tragedy was one of the worst the region had ever seen.
“We’ve started all the necessary steps and we’ve prepared a crisis unit at the town hall to follow the evolution of the situation.
“We have to understand how these whales ended up in Vasto, choosing to come and die on one of the most beautiful beaches in Italy inside the Punta Aderci reserve.”