An urgent rescue mission is underway to save a whale calf stranded in the River Thames in south-west London.

Hundreds gathered at Richmond Lock and Weir on Sunday evening to watch as rescuers desperately tried to budge the small whale.

It is believed to be a Minke whale between three to four metres long, which is still alive after getting stuck in the lock’s boat rollers at about 7pm.

Videos showed a man hosing down the whale, before a vet performed a check-up at the river’s edge.

A crowd cheered as the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) arrived at the scene at around 9pm.

A spokesman for the Port of London Authority, which owns and operates the lock, said the situation is ‘not good’ but there is no immediate danger to the whale.

Jake Manketo, 20, from Richmond, who has been watching the rescue mission said: ‘Everyone here is just hoping they get it out.

‘We couldn’t believe our eyes when we first saw the poor fella, not every day something like this happens in Richmond.’

Richard Frank shared images shortly after 8pm, writing: ‘Seems to be a baby whale stuck by Richmond Lock Bridge… Poor thing.

‘Being looked after by the lock keepers and waiting for experts to arrive.’

Fire crews have also been pictured at the scene, along with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue service.

It is believed the whale was first spotted at midday a few miles up the river near Barnes Bridge.

The lock, which is between Teddington and Richmond, comprises three vertical steel gates suspended from a footbridge.

A spokesman for the Port of London Authority added: ‘At around 7pm on Sunday, a small whale, approximately 3-4m long, believed to be a Minke whale, became stranded at Richmond Lock and Weir.

‘PLA staff have attempted to assist the whale with water along with British Divers Marine Life Rescue.

‘The whale is still alive and the Metropolitan Police are working to keep the public away from the water’s edge.’

Minke whales are the smallest of the great whales and grow to about 10 metres.

They are usually found in the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans but their range extends from the ice edge in the Arctic during the summer to near the equator during winter.

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