Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lifeguard looses foot during shark attack in False Bay

A 24-year-old lifeguard lost a foot when he was bitten by a shark in False Bay in a rare incident in shark-inhabited waters early on Sunday.Achmat Hassiem was in the water with fellow surf lifeguards from Lifesaving SA practising surf rescues at the time, National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) spokesperson Craig Lambinon said.He added that Hassiem was treated on the scene by medics from the lifeguard club and flown to hospital by helicopter."Lifeguard medics had controlled the bleeding, elevated the patient's leg and had the patient in a stable condition," Lambinon said.

Shark attacks remain uncommon in False BayLocal lifeguard chairman Graham Lewis said they were conducting a routine surf rescue exercise when the incident occurred. Constantiaberg Medi-Clinic nursing manager Frankie Redfern confirmed Hassiem had lost his foot. "He's stable at the moment," she added.

Hassiem's father, Moegsien, said Achmat's brother, Taariq, 17, was in the water with him when the shark attacked and that he had helped to save his sibling. He was now undergoing counselling."He's the one who saw everything and was in the water with him," his father said.The incident took place about 11am off Sunrise Beach at Muizenberg.

Shark attacks remain uncommon in False Bay, even though it is home to a large population of Great White sharks, a protected species in South Africa, attracted to a resident population of seals.In July the NSRI also cautioned swimmers at nearby Fish Hoek after a shark chewed a lifeguard's surf-ski.A government shark board in May reported six shark attacks, three of them fatal, around the Cape Peninsula between 2003 and 2005.

Two of the attacks occurred in open sea, while the other four were in False Bay."There are obviously many variables, although the one that swamps all others is the increase in recreational bathers in the water," said Deon Nel, aquatic unit manager at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Africa about the attacks."It has increased exponentially, specifically people who venture further offshore. Surfing, surf-ski paddlers, and spear fishing are popular sports.

Improvements in wetsuits also mean more people are in the water," Nel said.The city of Cape Town was reported to be drafting a policy to guide the safety aspects of people and sharks in False Bay.


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