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Saturday, January 2, 1999 Published at 02:28 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Australia's fatal attractions

Ayers Rock claims a number of deaths each year

By Red Harrison in Sydney

There is growing concern in about the number of overseas visitors coming to Australia being killed during the country's summer holidays, and officials are beginning to question whether enough is being done to alert visitors to the country's natural dangers.

[ image: A welcoming smile]
A welcoming smile
Australia is a country of sun, sand and surf and the big cities have all the air conditioned creature comforts of cities anywhere in the world attracting millions of tourists each year.

But there are other creatures here too.

In Sydney venomous Funnelweb spiders lurk in the suburbs and there are poisonous snakes, including some of the most toxic species known on the planet.

Off Bondi beach and elsewhere, deadly, stinging jelly fish thrive. And Sydney's beautiful harbour has more sharks than usual because environmentalists have cleaned up the waters making them a happier place for sharks to breed and feed their young.

Dying for adventure

[ image: Funnelweb bites can be deadly]
Funnelweb bites can be deadly
Further north, normally intelligent people ignore the warnings signs and try to swim in rivers inhabited by crocodiles.

Or they try to climb Ayers Rock, the great towering monolith in the red heart of the country and die from a heart attack or simply fall to their deaths.

A few days ago three Vietnamese and a Russian tourist drowned while swimming off beaches.

In Australia's famed 'red centre' the deserts create their own tragedies.

Heat and dust

[ image: Lots of nothing means it is easy to get lost]
Lots of nothing means it is easy to get lost
Just days ago a young Austrian woman tried walking for help when her vehicle became bogged in the sand and she perished in temperatures around 50C.

Some young backpackers have simply been murdered.

Tourism authorities do not want to frighten visitors unnecessarily, but most agree about the paradox, that what makes Australia an attractive tourist destination is also what makes it so dangerous.

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