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Woman arm amputated, three hurt in Florida shark attacks

Shark attacks close Florida beaches, swimmers warned. Two rare attacks in one day. Authorities patrol with boats. Beaches reopen with warnings.

Authorities in Florida's Gulf Coast are using boats to patrol the ocean and warn swimmers about sharks this weekend following rare attacks on Friday. The incidents off the Florida Panhandle led to the closure of several beaches to swimmers, but they were reopened on Saturday with flags warning of high hazards.

Demian Chapman, a scientist and director of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida, emphasized the rarity of these attacks. He mentioned that it is extremely uncommon to have two events in one day involving three people, stating that the odds are astronomically low.

In response to the attacks, Walton County's sheriff's office, fire department, and the state's wildlife agency collaborated to patrol the water with boats and the shore with vehicles. They urged swimmers to be cautious, respect the Gulf, stay hydrated, and look out for loved ones. Red and purple flags were used to warn swimmers of the dangers, with purple flags indicating dangerous marine life and single red flags indicating high hazard conditions.

The first attack occurred when a woman was bitten by a shark near WaterSound Beach, sustaining critical injuries on her midsection and arm. Part of her arm had to be amputated, and she was flown to a trauma center. Less than two hours later, firefighters responded to another beach about four miles east of the first attack, where two teenage girls were injured by a shark while in waist-deep water with a group of friends. One of the females had significant injuries to the upper leg and one hand, while the other had minor injuries on one of her feet.

Authorities do not know whether it was one shark or two separate ones involved in Friday's attacks. However, there has been an increase in the number of sharks in the Gulf of Mexico in recent years due to their recovery after overfishing. Experts note that shark attacks are rare worldwide, with 69 unprovoked bites last year, 10 of which were fatal. Swimmers and beachgoers are advised to be cautious and aware of their surroundings as sharks are always present in the Gulf.

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