Shark kills tourist after all-clear signal

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The Independent Online

A German woman was killed yesterday by a shark at the Sinai's most popular Red Sea resort only a day after the Egyptian authorities had declared the waters safe in the wake of a series of other attacks.

In an attack uncomfortably reminiscent of the plot line from the film Jaws, the tourist, reportedly aged about 70, died after the shark tore at her arm as she swam off the coast of Sharm el Sheikh. The resort attracts an estimated three million holidaymakers a year – many from Britain – because of the spectacularly rich variety of marine life enjoyed by divers and snorkellers.

Beaches had been closed to tourists for 48 hours at the end of last week after the mauling of at least three tourists from the former Soviet Union.

The Egyptian Environment Ministry announced on Thursday evening that two sharks suspected of the attacks, an oceanic whitetip and a mako, had been caught and killed.

Then on Saturday, the all clear was given after divers from the Chamber of Diving and Water Sports (CDWS) and the Environment Ministry moved through popular diving sites in an effort to ensure they were safe. The ministry also ordered diving centres to provide staff to supervise beaches and watch the waters for possible shark movements.

But yesterday, as the German woman's death was confirmed, the CDWS warned its members to clear the water immediately. In an urgent message to companies on the coast, it said: "Following reports of another incident in Middle Garden local reef, CDWS is calling for all its members in Sharm el-Sheikh to stop any snorkelling activities happening from any boats or shore. Please tell all your boats to immediately recall any snorkellers who may be in the water."

Jochen Van Lysebettens, the manager of the Red Sea Diving College, told Sky TV that the dead woman was a regular visitor to the luxury Hyatt Regency hotel at the resort. He added: "The woman was just swimming to stay in shape. Suddenly there was a scream of help and a lot of violence in the water. The lifeguard got her on the reef and he noticed she was severely wounded."

Mr Van Lysebettens said 40 diving instructors had been out in the waters in recent days to check for sharks after the initial catch. "They found nothing," he said. "Based on that, the authorities opened the dive sites again and opened the water sports activities again."

The attack has similarities with the 1975 Hollywood film Jaws, set in a New England resort. After a man is killed in the water, the local mayor declares the crisis is over because a shark has been found-despite correct warnings by the film's marine expert hero that it is not the one which committed the attack.

When the beaches were re-opened on Saturday, a local NGO, the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association, cast doubt on the decision, arguing that at least one of the sharks was not the one responsible for earlier attacks. "Comparing the photographs of the oceanic whitetip shark responsible for the second attack with the images of the captured oceanic whitetip shark, it is clear that they don't show the same individual."

Reuters cited Egyptian health officials as saying that the woman lost her right thigh and right elbow while swimming. The agency quoted Rolf Schmid, the manager of the Sinai Diver's Centre as saying that "it is unusual to have four attacks in a week".

He added: "The attack happened in a shallow area called Middle Garden north of Naama Bay, and the whole area hasn't had sharks for the past 10 to 15 years."