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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 21:24 GMT 22:24 UK
Sharks attack Brazilian bathers
Two bathers have been seriously injured in shark attacks off the beaches of north-eastern Brazil.

A 17-year-old lost his left hand, foot and part of a leg on Sunday in the sea off Pernambuco state.

On Saturday, a shark in the same region bit a 24-year-old woman who suffered injures to her legs and buttocks.

Scientists say the number of attacks this year is alarmingly high for the region, which is famous for its coral reefs and beaches.

"We've had five attacks so far this year, which makes the situation similar to 1994, when a record 11 attacks occurred," Fabio Hazin, director of fishery department at the Pernambuco Federal Rural University, told Reuters news agency.

In 2003, only one attack was reported off Pernambuco state.

Mr Hazin said the 1994 record came when Pernambuco's coastal region had unusually heavy rains, a situation seen again this year. "We think there might be a link there."

Tourism

Both of the weekend's victims were attacked in shallow waters, which was quite unusual as sharks in the region mainly target surfers much further away from the shore.

Mr Hazin said sharks started to regularly attack people off Pernambuco after the opening of Suape port in the late 1980s, which affected the habitat of bull sharks that used to breed there.

"With the port working and growing we cannot expect the problem to be resolved. Without a hint of doubt, shark attacks affect tourism in the state quite heavily."

Fourteen people are said to have died since 1990 in about 50 shark attacks in the region.

According to the International Shark Attack File, there were 55 unprovoked shark attacks on people worldwide last year, down from 63 reported in 2002. Four people were killed, up from three in 2002.

The bulk of attacks - 41 - were in US waters.




SEE ALSO:
Surfer killed by shark off Hawaii
08 Apr 04  |  Americas
Diver flees with shark attached
11 Feb 04  |  Asia-Pacific
SA shark tour operator shut down
07 Jan 04  |  Africa


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