CAIRO (Reuters) - A shark killed a German tourist who had been swimming near the shore at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday, days after a string of attacks injured several divers, Egypt health officials said.
The body of the 70-year-old woman was washed onto the shore. Officials said she had lost her right thigh and right elbow.
Egypt imposed a 48-hour ban on swimming in part of the waters off Sharm el-Sheikh after four divers -- three Russians and a Ukrainian -- were injured by shark attacks last week.
It was unclear whether the woman, who has not been named, was inside the area where swimming had been banned.
Shark attacks are extremely rare in Sharm el-Sheikh, one of Egypt’s most popular holiday destinations, but international media attention raised concerns they may affect tourism, an important source of employment and foreign exchange.
“It is unusual to have four attacks in a week,” said Rolf Schmid, manager of the Sinai Diver’s Center.
“The attack happened in a shallow area called Middle Garden north of Naama Bay, and the whole area hasn’t had sharks for the past 10 to 15 years.”
The environment ministry said on Thursday that it had caught and killed the two sharks behind the attacks on the divers. But a marine NGO then said they had killed the wrong sharks.
The Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) said that photographs of the dead sharks and pictures of the attack shark taken shortly before one of the attacks showed they were not the same fish.
“Comparing the photographs of the oceanic whitetip shark responsible for the second attack with the images of the captured oceanic whitetip shark, it is clear that they don’t show the same individual,” HEPCA said in a statement.
The NGO said shark attacks were “extremely rare” and warned against “randomly catching and killing” large oceanic sharks in the area. The recent attacks were probably carried out by a single shark behaving abnormally, it said.
The last death from a shark in Egypt was in June 2009, when a French woman was attacked in the leg while diving at Marsa Alam on the southern Red Sea coast then likely bled to death as she swam to the shore.
In 2004, a shark attacked and killed a snorkeler near Sharm el-Sheikh, according to the Global Shark Attack File Website www.sharkattackfile.net.
Some believe the killer shark had been drawn to the area after cattle and sheep being brought in for last month’s Islamic feast of the sacrifice, or Eid al-Adha, had died at sea and were thrown overboard.
“A shark can eat only once a month,” said Schmid. “A possible reason for the attacks is that the week before Eid, cattle and sheep imported from Australia die in the long voyage and are thrown in the shore before the ships reach the harbor,” he said. “This attracts predator sharks to such areas.”
Tourism officials were discussing how to contain the potential damage to the resort’s reputation from the attacks.
“Right now, we are assessing our situation -- there is a meeting that will take place right now to discuss how we can go forward,” said Hesham Gabr, head of the Diving and Maritime Activities Chamber.
Mahmoud Hanafy, adviser to the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA), said the news of the attacks had been blown out of proportion by the way the authorities were handling it.
“This should have no implications on the tourism industry, and its effect should not be exaggerated,” Hanafy said. “One or two attacks mean noting at the end of the day but poor handling of these attacks is creating panic among people.”
Additional reporting by Yousri Mohamed in Ismailia and Dina Zayed in Cairo; editing by Myra MacDonald