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Pacific Russia sees unprecedented shark attacks

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Aug. 19, 2011, 3:44 p.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Associated Press
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian emergency officials on Friday warned residents to stay out of the water along 1,300 kilometers (840 miles) of the Pacific coast after two unprecedented shark attacks on swimmers this week. In the first attack, on Wednesday, a 25-year-old man lost both his hands and sustained other serious injuries at a beach in Primorsky Krai, the southernmost region of Russia's Pacific coast.

The man was injured as he tried to rescue his wife, who was first attacked by the shark. On Thursday, a 16-year-old boy was severely bitten on the legs.

Konstantin Shvets, a deputy chief physician at the local hospital, told Russian television that the teenager's injuries look like "someone had passed a sharpened rake over the legs." Doctors extracted pieces of the shark's teeth from the wounds in six hours of surgery.

Several species of sharks have long been observed in Russia's Pacific waters, but this week's attacks on humans were the first recorded in the area. Both took place in the area of Khasan, near the border with North Korea.

More than 60 workers of the Emergencies Ministry were patrolling beaches and waters in Primorsky Krai to try to locate sharks, the ministry said in a statement Friday.

Officials and scientists said a single shark might be responsible for both attacks. Scientists on Friday cited witness accounts as saying both cases likely involved a four-meter-long white shark.

Beachgoers reported seeing a shark on Friday just a kilometer away from the site of Thursday's second attack.

Authorities have banned swimming in the Khasan area, where an estimated 7,000 people holiday at this time of year. Many holiday-makers, however, defied the ban.

A middle-aged unidentified woman in a bikini told NTV television that she is going to the beach despite the ban because "summer in Russia lasts just for one day."

The Emergency Situations Ministry on Friday issued guidelines for shark encounters, advising swimmers not to panic and to punch the shark in the eyes and gills.
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