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EGYPT: U.S experts called in to help stop Red Sea shark attacks

December 6, 2010 | 11:42 am

Shark-attack-Sharm-el-She-006

Egyptian authorities called in three U.S shark experts to help in the investigation of shark attacks that left one tourist dead and four others severely injured in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh.

The decision was prompted by the death of a 70-year-old tourist from Germany, who died minutes after she was mauled by a shark on Sunday. Sharm El Sheikh is renowned for scuba diving and Red Sea reefs, which help make tourism one of the country's most lucrative industries.

"The American experts will form an advisory team to try to assess and advise on the best course of action following the shark attacks in areas north of Naama Bay in Sharm El Sheikh this week," a statement issued by the Egyptian Chamber for Diving and Water Sports read.

George Burgess, the director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the University of Florida; Marie Levine, the head of Princeton's Shark Research Institute; and Ralph Collier of the Shark Research Committee are all expected to reach Egypt within the next two days.

Egyptian officials have suspended snorkeling and most other water sports along Sharm El Sheikh's coastal area. Tourists are allowed to swim within a limited range of their beaches, and experienced divers will be allowed into the water starting Tuesday.

Last week, a ban on swimming was imposed after three Russians and a Ukrainian diver were attacked and injured in similar incidents. Authorities announced on Friday the capture of two sharks -- an oceanic whitetip and a mako -- believed to have attacked the four divers. The swimming ban was lifted.

Despite Egypt's effort to prevent panic, it is feared the attacks might harm tourism to the city. On Monday, the British Foreign Office warned Britons about diving off Sharm El Sheikh.

British tour operators Thomson and First Choice said they had canceled all reservations for water-based excursions until further notice. Alongside Britons, Russians and Italians make up the majority of tourists to Sharm El Sheikh. 

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: One of the sharks believed to be responsible for attacking three Russians and a diver from Ukraine. Credit: EPA

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