Surfer attacked by shark off Reunion

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Saint Denis, Reunion - A surfer on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion was seriously injured in a shark attack on Sunday, the second in two weeks, as local authorities called for swift preventative action.

Xavier Brunetiere, general secretary at the Reunion town hall, said the surfer's right foot and his hand were seriously injured, in the attack at Saint Leu, located in a marine reserve on the western side of the island.

The man, whose identity was not released, is around 40 years old and is an experienced surfer, Brunetiere said.

Witnesses said the shark had severed a hand and a foot from the victim, but he made it back to the beach by himself. His life was not in danger, Brunetiere said.

Shark attacks here have been increasing in the last two years, with three surfers killed in the past 13 months.

Sunday's attack, the third this year, comes just over a fortnight after 22-year-old local Alexandre Rassica was killed by a shark who bit off his leg.

A number of worried local mayors want to allow fishermen to catch sharks in the marine reserve. Last week, the mayor of Saint Leu, Thierry Robert, authorised fishing for sharks in the waters around Saint Leu - which contain part of the marine reserve.

He later withdrew the decision after French Overseas Minister Victorin Lurel said France would deal with the problem.

But Robert said things are not moving quickly enough.

“The attack was foreseeable,” he told radio station Antenne Reunion. “I have been asking for action for several weeks. Once again this has happened in the marine reserve. People need to take responsibility.”

The Saint Leu town hall would take immediate action, he said, without being more specific.

The reserve was created five years ago to preserve coral reefs off the popular tourist island. - Sapa-AFP


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