'Man-eater shark' blamed for mauling two in Russia

18th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

A shark on Thursday mauled a 16-year-old boy on Russia's Pacific coast, a day after a young man lost his forearms defending his wife in a similar attack that stunned the country.

Scientists thought a single white shark measuring some four metres (13 feet) might be responsible for both attacks, which they said were unprecedented for the far eastern Primorye region.

The authorities extended a local ban imposed after Wednesday's incident to the coast of the entire region, known for its clear waters and luscious scenery.

"Swimming in the Sea of Japan along the shores of the Primorye region is not currently safe," the emergencies ministry said.

The 16-year-old on Thursday survived the attack but received serious injuries, including a tear wound to his thigh and damaged arteries, a local emergencies ministry spokesman told AFP, adding he was rushed for treatment to the regional capital Vladivostok.

The attack happened in Khasan district, near where a shark on Wednesday took off both arms of a 25-year-old man to the elbows as he was bathing just 20-25 metres (yards) offshore in the Telyakovsky bay near the Pining Heart islet.

"He was swimming with his wife and was attacked by a shark," Arkady Babenko, head of surgery at the Khasan Central District Hospital, said.

"He fought back as hard as he could, protecting his wife," Babenko said in televised remarks, adding that the patient was now in a grave condition in intensive care.

"It was very scary when they were pulling this guy out, I can't even describe it," witness Alyona Semyonova said on television. "Both his hands were already gone and there was a lot of blood in the boat."

The teenager on Thursday was attacked off the nearby Zheltukhina island in Khasan district, which borders North Korea.

A friend said they had been shaken by Wednesday's incident but could not even imagine they were in danger.

"Valera decided to go diving, he put on his wetsuit and flippers," Anna Pribytko said. "He just went 20-25 meters off shore and that's where the shark attacked him."

The local emergencies ministry appeared so stunned after the first attack on Wednesday that it initially refused to confirm a shark was responsible, blaming an unidentified "sea animal."

Several types of sharks including the herring shark can be seen in the northwestern Sea of Japan but they do not attack people and swimming there is considered generally safe.

"There have not been any instances of attacks on humans," said Vladimir Rakov, a professor of marine biology in Vladivostok.

Citing witnesses who described Wednesday's shark as being up to four metres long with a barrel-shaped body, Rakov said that it was likely a white shark, feared as a man-eater.

Scientists said it might have been drawn to the area by the clear waters and the populations of seals living on the islands.

A local official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the authorities would try to catch the shark, but experts said emergencies services appeared to have been caught off guard and had neither the experience nor the equipment required.

Last year, 79 people were attacked worldwide by sharks with six fatalities, the highest number of attacks in a decade and a 25-percent increase compared to 2009, according to researchers in Florida.

Earlier this week a shark killed a British honeymooner in the Seychelles as his newly-wed wife watched in horror, and a woman vacationing in Puerto Rico was badly bitten in the leg.

© 2011 AFP

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