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'Your Excellency' Whale Mourned: 10,000 Give Last Rites To 15-Ton Dead Whale In Vietnam

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HANOI, Vietnam — Thousands of Vietnamese fishermen are giving a royal send-off to a 15-ton dead whale, gathering at a southern Vietnamese village to pay homage at a funeral for the creature they call "Your Excellency."

Nearly 10,000 people have converged in Bac Lieu province to bid farewell to the 52 foot (16-meter) whale since he was dragged ashore Monday, said coast guard official Do Tien Ha.

They burned incense in his honor and planned to build a temple at the site of his burial, which was scheduled for Tuesday. Nearly 3,000 people will attend the whale's last rites, to be held at the mouth of the Cai Cung River.

In Vietnam's fishing culture, whales are considered sacred. They are referred to by the title "ngai," the same honorific used for kings, emperors and other esteemed leaders.

"Whenever whales arrive, dead or alive, local fishermen believe they bring luck and safety," Ha said by phone from Bac Lieu.

The dead whale was spotted 26 miles (42 kilometers) off the coast Sunday, and several dozen fishermen on 10 boats spent a day hauling it ashore, he said.