Egypt shark attack: what happened in Hurghada as Red Sea coastline closed after two women killed

Shark attacks have been mostly rare in Egypt’s Red Sea coastal region in recent years, however in 2010 a string of attacks saw four swimmers injured and one killed

<p>Tourists sunbathe at a beach in Egypt’s Red Sea resort town of Hurghada on August 25, 2018 (Photo by AFP via Getty Images)</p>

Tourists sunbathe at a beach in Egypt’s Red Sea resort town of Hurghada on August 25, 2018 (Photo by AFP via Getty Images)

A second woman has been killed in a shark attack off Egypt's Red Sea coast.

Egyptian authorities had closed off a stretch of the country’s coastline a day after a shark attack killed an Austrian woman swimming near the resort of Hurghada.

But now it has emerged that a second woman, a Romanian in her forties, has also been killed at the same location.

The two incidents happened within 600 metres of each other.

This is what you need to know.

What happened?

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Over the weekend, an Austrian woman and Romanian women were killed in shark attacks in Egypt off the coast of Sahl Hasheesh.

On Friday (1 July), a 68-year-old woman, who lost a leg and an arm, was attacked whilst swimming near the resort of Hurghada. She died shortly after being taken to the private Nile Hospital in Hurghada, an Egyptian health official said.

She was barely alive when she was taken in on Friday, the official said, adding that attempts by medical staff to resuscitate her failed.

A beach in the city of Hurghada, Egypt (Photo by MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP via Getty Images)

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to reporters.

A video circulated online purported to show the attack on the woman by a Mako shark relatively close to the shore, seen from a nearby pier.

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In the video, the water around the woman turns red from blood as bystanders on the pier throw a flotation device towards her. It remains unclear how she was able to get to the shore.

Sources told Reuters that the Austrian woman had been living in Egypt for the past five years with her Egyptian husband.

The woman has since been identified as Elisabeth Sauer on Facebook by the Green Party in Kramsach, in the Tyrol region. She served as a councillor for the party from 1998 to 2004.

The party posted the news on Facebook (Photo: Facebook/Die Grünen Kramsach)

On Facebook, Kramsach Green Party wrote: “We mourn the passing of our Elisabeth Sauer, who died in a tragic accident. Our deepest condolences go out to the family.

“Elisabeth was a committed Green from the first hour in Kramsach, a councillor from 1998 - 2004, and for many years a loyal substitute councillor and candidate. May she rest in peace.

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“We would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere condolences and compassion.

“She will forever be remembered for her warm and humanly connecting way.”

On Sunday (3 July) afternoon, new reports emerged of the second fatality, with the victim described as a Romanian female tourist in her forties. The Romanian Foreign Ministry said it was working to identify the victim, notify the family and see the body repatriated.

Both attacks happened in close proximity of each other, off the coast of Sahl Hasheesh.

Has the Red Sea coast been closed?

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Authorities have closed off a stretch of the Red Sea coastline.

According to an internal document from the office of the governor of the Red Sea province, shared with the Associated Press, authorities were to close off the area for three days, banning all “sea activities” including diving, snorkelling, windsurfing and kite sailing.

A tourist stands in the water in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on August 13, 2017 (Photo by MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP via Getty Images)

Fishing boats were also banned from the waters off Hurghada.

The governor ordered the closure.

Egyptian authorities said in a statement that a committed had been created in order to “examine the circumstance of the attacks” in a bid to try and understand any possible scientific reasons behind them.

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It said: “Local authorities stopped all activities within the vicinity of the incident for three days to allow for data to be collected according to protocols used globally to investigate shark attacks.”

Egypt’s Red Sea resorts, including Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh, are some of the country’s major beach destinations and are popular with European tourists.

How common are shark attacks in Egypt?

Shark attacks have been relatively rare in Egypt’s Red Sea coastal region in recent years.

In 2020, a young Ukrainian boy lost an arm and an Egyptian tour guide a leg in an attack.

One person was killed and four injured in the 2010 Sharm El Sheikh shark attacks in 2010, which took place at the Red Sea resort in Egypt. On 1 December 2010, three Russians and one Ukrainian were seriously injured within minutes of one another, and a few days later, one 5 December, a German woman was killed.

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Jochen Van Lysebettens, a manager of the Red Sea Diving College at the resort who saw the attack, told Sky News: “Suddenly there was a scream of help and a lot of violence in the water. The lifeguard got her on the reef and he noticed she was severely wounded.”

An oceanic whitetip shark swimming in the blue near the Elphinstone reef dive site off the coast of Marsa Alam in the Egyptian Red Sea on October 9, 2018. (Photo by Andrea BERNARDI/AFP via Getty Images)

Shark experts at the time called the attacks “unprecedented” and Hesham Gabr, chairman of the Sharm El Sheikh Chamber of Diving and Water Sports, said in a statement that the attacks may have been triggered by overfishing.

He said: “It is clear from our initial discussions with shark behavioural experts that this highly unusual spate of attacks by an oceanic whitetip shark was triggered by an activity, most probably illegal fishing or feeding in the area.”

On 9 December, an international team of experts revealed that it had found that two species of sharks had been involved in the attacks - makos and oceanic whitetips.

The team listed a number of possible factors for the change in the shark’s behaviour, including “one or more incidents of illegal dumping of animal carcasses in nearby waters; depletion of natural prey in the area caused by overfishing; localised feeding of reef fish and/or sharks by swimmers, snorkelers and some divers; and unusually high water temperatures in Sharm El Sheikh”.