Shark strikes for fifth time at popular resort
Published 06/12/2010 | 05:00
A shark that has acquired a taste for human flesh struck for the fifth time in a week off Egypt's most popular Red Sea resort yesterday, killing a German woman.
The victim (70) was severely mauled as she snorkled close to the shore in Sharm el-Sheikh, losing a leg and half her right arm in an attack that brought panic to thousands of holidaymakers.
Adding to their trepidation was the fact that the sea had been declared safe just a day earlier after a string of attacks last week.
The nature of the attacks, thought to be the work of at least one Oceanic whitetip shark -- described by oceanographer Jacques Cousteau as "the most dangerous of all sharks" --has been so ferocious that experts have been left at a loss to explain them.
Even conservationists and marine biologists, who tend to present sharks as maligned and misunderstood creatures, admit to being baffled by the "unprecedented" behaviour. So rare is it for sharks to launch multiple attacks close to shore that even the experts are drawing parallels with 'Jaws', Stephen Spielberg's 1975 thriller.
"In all my years reading about shark attacks and writing about them you never hear about sharks biting more than one person," said Samuel Gruber, an expert on sharks at Miami's Bimini Biological Field Station.
Sharm el-Sheikh is thought to have suffered only one shark-related fatality before.
But last Tuesday sunbathers watched in horror as a Russian man emerged on to the beach, blood streaming from leg wounds. Moments later, the predator struck again, maiming another Russian man. This victim had lost a foot and one of his hands was dangling by sinews. A Russian woman was the third victim.
On Wednesday came a fourth attack, a Ukranian man with leg wounds believed to have been caused by a shark.
Egyptian officials closed Sharm el-Sheikh's beaches and ordered a shark hunt. Two sharks, a whitetip and a mako, were captured and identified as the culprits.
But a local conservation group smelled a rat. They noticed that photos taken by a diver of the shark responsible for the second attack proved it had not been caught.
Yet the anomaly went unheeded by the Egyptian authorities. They ruled that the fear of further bad publicity outweighed the risks and the beaches were reopened, only to close again yesterday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)