On Friday, an Austrian woman and a Romanian woman swimming at a popular Red Sea tourist beach were killed in separate shark attacks, according to Egyptian authorities. The attacks happened within hours—and within 600 meters—of each other.
The Egyptian environmental ministry confirmed on Sunday that the attacks took place near the resort city of Hughada off the Sahl Hasheesh coast. The Austrian news agency APA identified one of the women as a 68-year-old from the country’s Tyrol region. Romania’s foreign ministry confirmed to AFP “the death of a Romanian citizen,” in her 40s. Sources said the body of the Romanian woman was found hours after the Austrian woman was killed.
A gruesome video of the first attack, the authenticity of which has not been verified, surfaced on Facebook, showing a lone woman in the water with blood pooling around her as a flipper bobbed on the surface. A crowd of tourists on a nearby pier yelled and urged the woman on, one throwing a rope to her. The woman heroically swam to the pier, where the tourists ushered her to the beach after she had lost an arm and a leg. A source at the Red Sea Health Affairs Directorate told Reuters that an ambulance transported her to a nearby hospital, but she died from her injuries after attempts to resuscitate her.
It was not clear if the same shark attacked both women. Egyptian authorities said in a statement that a committee had been formed to investigate the circumstances. Red Sea Governor Amr Hanafi ordered the closure of all area beaches to all water activities for three days.
While shark attacks are rare in the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean inlet between Africa and Asia hosts 44 shark species. Since 2010, nine attacks, all but one involving foreign tourists, have been recorded, resulting in three fatalities.
Globally, according to the International Shark Attack File, unprovoked shark attacks increased last year from 52 in 2020 to 73. However, officials cite COVID-19 pandemic-related beach closures for 2020’s lower number. The 73 attacks in 2021 align with the five-year average of 72.