A French tourist has had her hands and chest bitten by a shark leaving her seriously injured in a rare attack in the Pacific islands of Polynesia.
The 35-year-old woman was swimming off the island of Moorea during a whale-watching trip on Monday in the French overseas territory when the oceanic whitetip shark tore into her chest and arms.
The woman lost both of her hands in the incident, emergency services said Tuesday. One of her breasts had also been ripped from her body, according to local media reports.
The attack happened in front of her family including her 6-year-old son, according to local station Radio 1.
The victim was quickly brought back onto dry ground close to the InterContinental Hotel in Moorea by pontoon, where she was attended to by paramedics.
One witness told the local radio station:’I saw this woman who had no arms, the arm on the left side was hanging down and her hand was hanging. Her rib on her right-hand side was also swollen. It was a huge panic for everyone.’
According to the witness, the 35-year-old was conscious when she arrived at the shore and questioned: ‘But why did you take me there if it was not safe?’
Firefighter Jean-Jacques Riveta told AFP: ‘Luckily for her, there were two nurses on the scene who could deliver first aid.’
According to Radio 1, one of the woman’s breasts had been ripped from her body in the attack.
The woman lost a lot of blood in the attack and was airlifted to hospital in the nearby island of Tahiti.
She is reportedly in a serious but stable condition.
The white tip shark, known locally as ‘parata’, rarely attacks humans and prefers to swim off-shore, in the deeper ocean. A judicial inquiry has been launched to determine the exact circumstances of the incident.
Recent studies show steeply declining populations due to its large fins being a highly sought-after ingredient in shark fish soup.
Shark attacks in French Polynesia are rare, with only 6 confirmed unprovoked attacks since 1580, according to the International Shark Attack File.