The beaches around Hurghada are bustling with holidaymakers and water sports enthusiasts all year round. Incidents involving sharks are actually extremely rare. But now two women die after shark attacks.

Not far from the Egyptian seaside resort of Hurghada, an Austrian and a Romanian woman died in a shark attack.

A shark approached the 68-year-old Austrian while she was swimming, the German press agency learned from medical circles in Hurghada. The woman suffered shock and died in hospital. The Russian agency Ria Novosti reported that the 68-year-old lost an arm and a leg in the attack.

The second woman apparently died after being attacked by the same shark. This was announced by the Egyptian Ministry of the Environment in Cairo. Environment Minister Jasmin Fuad expresses her condolences to the families of the two victims. According to the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is a Romanian who was vacationing in Hurghada. The beach has been closed for the time being.

The Austrian Foreign Ministry in Vienna confirmed the death of an Austrian. According to medical sources, she was married to an Egyptian and lived in Hurghada on the Red Sea. Tourists watched the tragic scenes from the beach and from a jetty. A video shows the woman trying to get to safety in red-colored water. Meanwhile, men from the jetty try to pull her out of the water with a rope.

The beach has been closed

The incident happened in a bay south of Hurghada. The beach was closed for three days. The Chamber of Diving and Water Sports (CDWS) informed its members of the sighting of a mako shark in the area following the incident. Water sports such as diving, snorkeling, kitesurfing and windsurfing are not permitted in the area during this time, it said.

Mako sharks can reach speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour. When fully grown, they can be over 4 meters long and weigh over 500 kilograms. Hammerheads, oceanic whitetips, silky sharks and other species also live in the Red Sea.

Shark attacks are very rare

The Red Sea is a popular destination for divers, among others. Shark attacks are actually very rare there. However, there have also been isolated cases of deadly attacks. In 2018, a tourist from the Czech Republic died after a shark attack, as did a German in 2015 and a German pensioner in 2010. The animals may be attracted by rubbish or – actually forbidden – food and bait from excursion boats.

For dive operators who also offer shark dives, the predatory fish are an important source of income. According to Mahmud al-Hanafi, a professor of marine biology at Suez Canal University, a shark with a 20-year lifespan can be worth up to $4 million ($3.7 million) in economic terms. Feeding sharks or baiting them with raw meat is prohibited.