The bodies of at least 20 whales have washed up on a Dakar beach and residents of the area say as many as 100 swam up to the shore.

Villagers living nearby said the whales were spotted late Tuesday night, veering closer and closer to the shore. By Wednesday morning many of them were beached. An Associated Press photographer counted at least 20 bodies, each the size of an adult man.

Children got into the water, trying to shoo away the other whales that were trying to swim ashore. Fishermen tied a cable to one of the beached whales and used a wooden boat to tow it out to sea.

Others placed a roller, used to move boats, under the body of another whale stuck in the sand and tried to push it toward the water but gave up when it became clear the whale was near death.

When it was obvious that many of the whales were dead, children began playing with the bodies, jumping up and down on the carcasses and using them as slides. Some villagers began cutting pieces off one of the dead whales, saying they planned to use the blubber for massage oil.

Officials could not immediately be reached for comment. People living near the beach in Dakar said they had never experienced anything of this kind before.