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Swimming death escalates attacks crisis

The shark with two of the divers (Garrett Clement)
The shark with two of the divers (Garrett Clement)

A shark has killed a swimmer off Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, days after three other swimmers and snorkellers were badly hurt in shark attacks in the same area.

The German tourist, a woman aged 71, died yesterday when she was attacked as she swam out from the beach in front of the Hyatt Hotel, in Naama Bay. She had reportedly suffered severe bites to a leg and an arm.

There has been no reported witness statement regarding what type of shark might have been involved.

The attack came within a week of three other attacks in the nearby Ras Nasrani area.

The Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) has backed Egypt’s Chamber of Diving and Watersports in saying that the first series of attacks involved three people, not four as reported in some quarters.

Witness reports, including photographic evidence, showed that an adult oceanic whitetip was at least partially, and perhaps totally, responsible.

After the first three attacks, all in-sea leisure activities were suspended on 1 December and resumed on 4 December.

Following the latest fatal incident, Egypt’s Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS) has again suspended water activities in the region, but expects to allow the resumption of scuba diving from tomorrow.

Submerged scuba divers are regarded as being at much lower risk than swimmers and snorkellers on the surface.

Qualified divers will be allowed to operate everywhere except in the area between Ras Nasrani and the north of Naama Bay, which is being monitored by teams from the Ras Mohammed National Park.

However, introductory and training dives remain suspended until further notice.

In a bid to get to the bottom of the unusual succession of attacks, the CDWS is engaging four world experts on sharks, with funding support from the Ministry of Tourism, to assess the situation and advise on how best to proceed.

Expected to have arrived in Egypt from the USA by this evening are Dr George Burgess, Director of the Florida Program and Curator of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History for Shark Research; Dr Marie Levine, head of the Shark Research Institute in Princeton, USA; and Dr Ralph Collier, of the Shark Research Committee and author of Shark Attacks of the Twentieth Century.

The fourth expert, Dr Erich Ritter, is to assist from his American research centre.

A Swedish survey vessel has been taken on to help the researchers by surveying seabed topography and shark movements.

After last week’s non-fatal attacks, two sharks, an oceanic whitetip and a mako, were caught off Sharm el Sheikh by South Sinai National Park.

There was initial conjecture that at least one of them could have been responsible for attacks, followed by cynicism over how a shark could be identified as a culprit, then tracked and caught.

Autopsies were carried out to see if they contained human remains, but results were not announced.

HEPCA has stated that the oeanic whitetip caught was clearly not that photographed shortly before it attacked one of the swimmers.


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