A shark bit a 68-year-old man several times on Wednesday in waist-deep water in North Carolina, officials said, the seventh attack in the state’s coastal waters in less than three weeks.
The man suffered wounds to his ribcage, lower leg, hip and both hands as he tried to fight off the animal, said Justin Gibbs, a local emergency official. The attack happened around noon on a beach on Ocracoke Island, he said.
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“The individual was actually located right in front of the lifeguard tower when it occurred,” said Gibbs, who said witnesses reported the animal was about 7 feet (2 meters) long. “He was pulled under by the shark. He was bit several times.”
The victim was swimming in waist-deep water with his adult son about 30 feet (9 meters) offshore, the National Park Service said in a news release. There were no other swimmers injured.
The man is the seventh person attacked along the North Carolina coast in three weeks, the most in at least 15 years. Most were attacked in water similarly shallow. The injuries ranged from minor ones to the heel and ankle of an 8-year-old.
Shark experts say the recent spate of attacks along on the coast of the Carolinas is due to so many more people getting in the water. Americans made 2.2 billion visits to beaches in 2010, up from 2 billion in 2001, according to a US Army Corps of Engineers estimate.
Scientists say that there have been reports of small bait fish coming closer to shore this summer, which attracts sharks. There have also been reports of larger numbers of sea turtles along the coast, which sharks also like to eat.
Vacationer Laura Irish Hefty said she was about 100 yards (meters) away when she saw a crowd gathering on the beach and went to investigate. She said her husband saw blood on both of the man’s legs. The man was treated on the beach for about 20 minutes, according to Hefty, and then an emergency helicopter flew him to a local hospital.
Swimmers were back in the water at that spot within a couple of hours after the attack, Hefty said. “Nobody seems to be that scared,” she said.
In a separate incident, a 32-year-old surfer was critically injured by a shark on Thursday at the same Australian coastal town where a Japanese tourist was killed in February, police said.
The local man was surfing with two friends at Light House Beach in Ballina, a tourist town 600 kilometers (350 miles) north of Sydney, when he was bitten by a shark, “suffering significant injuries to his lower legs,” a police statement said.
Friends of the victim, whose name has not been released, helped him to shore before he was flown by helicopter 100 kilometers (60 miles) north to Gold Coast Hospital, police said.
Police have released no details about the shark.
Japanese tourist Tadashi Nakahara, 41, was surfing just north of Light House Beach at Shelly Beach in February when police said a great white shark 3 to 4 meters (10 to 13 feet) long tore off both his legs.
In 2008, Peter Edmonds, 16, died of blood loss on Lighthouse Beach after a shark mauled his leg as he surfed with a friend.
All beaches in the Ballina area have been closed for 24 hours after Thursday’s attack, police said.
Sharks are common off Australia’s beaches, but fatal attacks are rare. The country has averaged fewer than two deadly attacks per year in recent decades.