Sydney - A 12-year-old boy was feared dead after being snatched by a saltwater crocodile while swimming in Australia's Northern Territory, police said on Monday.
The boy was swimming with friends in the Mudginberri Billabong in Kakadu National Park on Sunday afternoon when they were attacked. One other boy suffered bite wounds as he tried to fight off the creature.
“It is believed the 12-year-old boy was taken by a crocodile as he and a number of other young boys were swimming in the billabong,” said acting police commander Michael White.
“One other boy, also aged 12, was bitten on the arm by the crocodile and has received medical treatment from attending St John Ambulance members.”
Aerial, land and boat searches in and around Magela Creek, which feeds the billabong or waterhole, continued throughout the night but there was no sign of the boy.
Searchers have been issued shoot-to-kill orders for any creature longer than three metres sighted in the area of Mudginberri Outstation, which is about 200km east of Darwin.
Two crocodiles were shot, but it was found they had not ingested any human remains.
Saltwater crocodiles can grow up to seven metres long, weigh more than a ton, and are a common feature of Australia's tropical north.
Their numbers have increased steadily since the introduction of protection laws in 1971, with government estimates putting the population at between 75 000 and 100 000.
The most recent fatality was in August last year, when a man was taken by a 4.7m croc as he swam across the Mary River.
Parks officials said the Magela Creek area was well signposted as a crocodile danger zone.
“We have big croc warning signs with croc jaws and a big thing saying 'croc risk; do not swim here, do not enter',” a spokeswoman said.