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Egypt: Two women killed in shark attacks in Red Sea

Both attacks reported to have taken place within 600 metres of each other in Sahl Hasheesh, south of Hurghada
Tourists walk past a red flag serving as a warning of shark sightings on a beach in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on 8 December 2010 (AFP)
Tourists walk past a red flag that serves as a warning of shark sightings on a beach in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on 8 December 2010 (AFP)

Two women, one Austrian and the other Romanian, were killed in shark attacks in recent days off the coast of Egypt, with the Austrian citizen reported to "have had her left arm torn off" by a shark. 

"Two women were attacked by a shark while swimming" in the Sahl Hasheesh area south of Hurghada on the Red Sea, the Egyptian environment ministry said on Facebook on Sunday, reporting that both had died.

Both attacks happened within 600 metres of each other, two sources at the ministry told Reuters.

Austria's foreign ministry confirmed to AFP "the death of an Austrian citizen in Egypt", without providing further details.

Austrian news agency APA said the Austrian citizen was a 68-year-old woman from the country's Tyrol region who was holidaying in Egypt.

However, an Egyptian security source told Reuters the Austrian woman had been living in Egypt over the past five years with her Egyptian husband.

The Austrian woman was transferred to a local private hospital, according to a source at the Red Sea Health Affairs Directorate, adding that there were attempts to resuscitate her, but she died from her injuries.

Citing information received from Egyptian authorities, Romania's foreign ministry confirmed on Sunday "the death of a Romanian citizen" which "appeared" to have been caused by a "shark attack" off Hurghada.

The two sources at the environment ministry told Reuters that the Romanian citizen was a tourist in her late forties whose body was discovered hours after the first attack.

Closure of beaches

Red Sea governor Amr Hanafi on Friday ordered the closure of all beaches in the area for three days following the attacks.

Social media users on Friday shared a video - the authenticity, date and location of which could not be independently verified - showing a swimmer struggling before what appeared to be a pool of blood emerged around her.

A task force is working to "identify the scientific causes and circumstances of the attack" and determine "the reasons behind the shark's behaviour that resulted in the incident", the environment ministry said on Sunday.

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The Red Sea is a popular tourist destination, where sharks are common but rarely attack people swimming within authorised limits.

In 2018, a Czech tourist was killed by a shark off a Red Sea beach. A similar attack killed a German tourist in 2015.

In 2010, a spate of five attacks in five days, unusually close to the shore of tourist hotspot Sharm el-Sheikh, killed one German and injured four other foreign tourists.

That year, Israel dismissed Egyptian claims that the shark attack could have been the result of a plot carried out by its foreign intelligence agency, Mossad.

Egypt is currently struggling to overcome rising inflation and currency weakness.

The country relies heavily on tourism revenues from the Red Sea, which accounts for some 65 percent of tourists visiting the country.

The tourism industry has been battered by successive blows over the past decade, including the country's 2011 revolution, ensuing unrest and the Covid-19 pandemic.