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Hurghada coast closed after shark fatality

Hurghada beach shark attack
Sahl Hasheesh beach (Josh F Drake)
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A stretch of the Red Sea coast around Hurghada has been closed to divers and other water-users for at least three days following a snorkeller’s fatal encounter with a shark on Friday, 1 July.

The victim, a 68-year-old Austrian woman thought to have been a local resident, had been in the water just off the beach near the pier, and lost an arm and a leg in the attack. She was in critical condition as she was taken by ambulance to the town’s Nile Hospital and was pronounced dead soon after arrival as attempts to resuscitate her failed.

The incident occurred at Sahl Hasheesh, a bay between Hurghada and Safaga to the south popular with tourists. The Red Sea governorate ordered the temporary closure of the sea around Hurghada for all recreational activities.

Bystanders had taken phone video footage of the incident, involving a shark provisionally identified as a mako, and of the snorkeller trying to reach safety, although it was unclear how she made it ashore.

While there have been a number of offshore incidents in the Red Sea in recent years, often involving oceanic whitetip sharks, it is very rare for harmful encounters to be reported inshore.

In 2019 offshore incidents prompted Egypt’s Chamber of Diving & Water Sports to launch a shark-awareness education programme for dive operators and staff, and to introduce restrictions on fish-feeding, waste-disposal and fishing in areas where such activities might be considered responsible for affecting shark behaviour. 

These and further incidents prompted shark photo-journalist Ekrem Parmaksiz, writing in Diver magazine last year, to consult a number of Red Sea dive professionals who considered that rising Red Sea water temperatures could explain unpredictable shark behaviour. 

Shark attacks at the surface are usually considered by experts most likely to be the result of investigative bites as a shark mistakes a person for its natural prey.

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