Egypt hopes it's safe to go back into water after shark attacks

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The Independent Online

Egypt is to reopen some of its beaches at Sharm el-Sheikh after a spate of shark attacks at the popular resort this month left one tourist dead and four others injured.

The decision comes as the Red Sea resort, famed for its coral reefs, gears up for the busy winter season, when European holidaymakers arrive en masse in search of winter sun.

Egyptian officials said they planned to implement new measures on the advice of experts. Divers equipped with binoculars will be posted at observation towers along the beaches, while coastguards will continuously patrol the area in boats. Swimmers will have to stick to designated areas.

"We have allowed the beaches to reopen on condition that hotel owners adhere to new controls to ensure the safety of foreign tourists while diving or swimming," said South Sinai Governor Mohamed Shousha. Some beaches will remain closed indefinitely.

Egyptian authorities closed beaches on 5 December after sharks struck twice in a matter of days. Onlookers described the horrific scenes when a shark ripped the arm off an elderly German woman snorkelling a few metres from the shore, killing her almost instantly. A few days earlier, three Russians and a Ukrainian were badly mauled by sharks in the same area.

Egypt launched frantic efforts to find the sharks, fearful that another attack would have a devastating impact on Sharm el-Sheikh's reputation. The resort is a crucial provider of foreign currency revenue and jobs.

In the wake of the first attacks, hunters announced the cull of two sharks, despite warnings that they had identified the wrong predators. The beaches were declared safe and days later there was another attack. Mr Shousha has acknowledged that the authorities were hasty in reopening the beaches after the first attack.