A surfer is fighting for his life in the hospital after he was attacked by a shark off Australia’s east coast, police said Friday.
The 44-year-old man was surfing near Lighthouse Beach, Port Macquarie when a shark launched a “sustained and prolonged attack,” New South Wales (NSW) police said in a statement.
The surfer tried to fight the shark for about 30 seconds before swimming back to shore where he realized the extent of his injuries, CNN regional affiliate 9News reported.
Police said a bystander applied a tourniquet before paramedics transferred the surfer to Port Macquarie Hospital in critical condition.
“[He is in] a serious condition with life threatening injuries, sustained from the lower leg injuries, and also significant blood loss,” NSW Police Chief Inspector Martin Burke said.
A witness told 9News the scene was “really scary”.
“I have never seen anything like it,” the unnamed teenager said. “His foot ripped off and basically he was bleeding everywhere.”
Lighthouse Beach will remain closed for at least 24 hours, Port Macquarie Hastings ALS Lifeguards said on Facebook. Meanwhile, a drone will be used to conduct surveillance flights and monitor shark activity in the area, the group said.
Experts from the Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries) have begun an investigation into the incident, according to Surf Life Saving NSW.
Australia ranked behind only the United States in the number of unprovoked shark encounters with humans last year, according to the Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File.
The museum describes “unprovoked bites” as incidents in which a bite on a human takes place in the shark’s natural habitat with no human provocation of the shark. “Provoked bites” are classified as when a human initiates interaction with a shark in some way.
According to the Australian Shark Incident Database, there were 10 shark encounters in New South Wales in 2022, resulting in seven injuries and one death.