SYDNEY — A man had part of his arm torn off by a suspected great white shark while surfing off the coast of Western Australia on Thursday, officials said.
The man was surfing at Wylie Bay in the town of Esperance on Western Australia's remote southern coast when he was attacked by what is believed to be a 4-meter (13-foot) great white, Esperance Shire President Malcolm Heasman said.
A fellow surfer managed to get the victim to shore and to a nearby parking lot where there was an off-duty ambulance officer, Heasman said. The officer gave the man first aid while they waited for help to arrive.
The victim lost one arm below the elbow and had extensive injuries on his other arm, likely from trying to fend off the shark, Heasman said. The man, who was a visitor to the area, also had lacerations to his legs. He was flown to a hospital in Perth for treatment and was in stable condition.
Within hours of the attack, fisheries officers caught two great white sharks between 3 and 4.5 meters (10 and 15 feet) long in Wylie Bay, the state fisheries department said in a statement. It was not yet known whether either shark was responsible for the attack. Both were being taken to Perth for examination, but even that may prove inconclusive as it is common for sharks to disgorge their stomach contents, the department said.
Beaches in the area were expected to remain closed for several days, and swimmers were told to stay out of the water. Police retrieved the man's surfboard, which was covered in bite marks, Heasman said.
It was the second attack by a suspected great white shark in the waters off Esperance in a year. Last October, a man was seriously injured by what officials believe was a great white while diving for abalone off Poison Creek, an area near the town.
There had been a few shark sightings in the Wylie Bay area in recent weeks, though that's not considered unusual during the Australian spring, Heasman said.
Although sharks are common in Australian waters, the country has averaged fewer than two fatal attacks per year in recent decades.