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Tourism unaffected by shark attack rumour at Karon beach

Alleged shark attack at an Australian tourist swimming at Karon beach in Phuket Tuesday remained unclear with local people, life guards, and authorities believed it was likely to be a native aggressive fish that attacked her.

After an Australian female tourist has been hospitalized after being attacked by an unknown marine animal, many opinions have been voiced, and most ruled out shark but some other sea creature.

According to a life guard who was on duty at Karon beach at the time of the attack, the female tourist was swimming with her male companion approximately 50 meters from shore.

After a while she was seen being carried ashore by her male friend who shouted out for assistance.

The guard, Wira Phalikham, said he then ran to the victim and saw that the rear portion of her left leg was injured.

When asked, she stated that she thought that she had been bitten.

He immediately called an ambulance which took her to hospital.

He then closed off the beach forbidding swimmers from entering the water.

Howeve he said he didn’t believe she was attacked by a shark because in all his time here he has never come across even one of them.

Furthermore, locals who have lived here for more than 50 years also said that they have never ever heard of a shark attack here, he said.

Following the attack and subsequent closure of the beach, the head of the Karon Marine Safety Center Mr Suppachai Chanpet, along with officials from the Phuket City Hospital and officers and divers from the 3rd Region Naval Unit throughout the day organized underwater patrols but found nothing out of the ordinary.

Authorities said that the possibility is extremely remote as sharks have never been sighted in these waters.

Past sightings here have included dolphins and sea turtles but never sharks.

They speculated that the most likely culprit was either marlin or barracuda (commonly known as “Pla Sark” ) which local fishermen recognize as aggressive marine animal.

There was one report of a barracuda attack earlier in the year where a tourist was bitten in the neck but no shark attack has ever been reported, they said.

“Barracudas are commonly known by locals as “Pla Sark” fish and are found in Thailand’s waters as well as in the deep ocean. There are many types of barracudas some are black while others are yellow in color and they are ferocious animals. They are aggressive and are fearsome scavengers,” he said.

However, Dr Kongkiat Kittiwattana-wong, head of the Rare Marine Species Research Division of the Phuket Marine Biological Center contertered those claims, saying he confidently believed it was the attack by a small young bull-shark.

He said that there have been several reports of bull-sharks having been discovered along murky, tide swept shores in other parts of the world.

“I am more than 90% certain that it was a bull-shark attack. No other animal could have done this.”

But it remained unclear what animal attacked the Australian tourist, the incident seemed to have no impact on tourism at Karon beach with tourists still allowed to swim but closely watch by life guards.

Thai PBS

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