Fatal shark attack in Australia

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A woman called out "shark" as she was being mauled to death by as many as three of them off the coast of Australia, but her friends in the water didn't believe her, police said today.

Sarah Whiley, 21, died late yesterday of severe injuries after being attacked near North Stradbroke Island, east of the Queensland state capital Brisbane.

Whiley was swimming with a group of friends from a church group when she was pulled underwater for about five seconds then emerged and called out "Shark!" said Queensland police inspector Peter Harding.

"Of course people at the time thought she was only joking - until they saw the blood," he told reporters today.

Harding said officers were searching for the predators and had closed several nearby beaches.

"If we found them (the sharks) I suppose we would try to retrieve them and see if they have any body parts," Harding said. "The idea is to retrieve what we can."

Whiley was airlifted to a Brisbane hospital where she had to have both arms amputated just below the elbow, according to Queensland Rescue Helicopter spokeswoman Helen Anderson. She also suffered deep wounds to her legs and torso, Anderson said.

Harding said the severity of Whiley's injuries indicated she may have been attacked by a group of bull sharks, a species known for aggressive behavior at this time of year.

"She was bleeding quite heavily ... (from) what I've seen and what I've been told, there was more than one shark involved, there could have been up to three," Harding said.

Contrary to earlier reports, Harding said there was no dog with the woman at the time. Swimming with animals could bring on a shark attack, Australian shark expert Andrew Fox told Sky News earlier.

Harding added the woman was swimming in water "anything from chest-deep to nine metres."