Recife steps up shark warnings for unwary World Cup fans

Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:34pm EDT
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By Philip O'Connor

RECIFE Brazil (Reuters) - Soccer fans visiting Recife for the World Cup may be unaware that the city is not just famous for football - it is also one of the most dangerous places in the world to swim due to the risk of shark attacks.

Supporters strolling on the sandy beaches of the city, which will host five World Cup matches, are being met by a forest of warning signs in English and Portuguese, and newly-built watchtowers where lifeguards keep a close eye on bathers.

The Boa Viagem beach suffers a high number of shark attacks and an above-average number of fatalities, and local authorities are keen to avoid any incidents with unsuspecting soccer fans during the World Cup.

"In the 20 kilometers of beach we have in the state of Pernambuco, we have an atypical concentration of sharks, above the world average," local lifeguard captain Helder Silva told Reuters in an interview at one of the many watchtowers along the shore.

"Across these 20 kilometers of coastline we’ve had 59 incidents over 21 years, which is considered above the world average for attacks."

The waters off the coast of the capital of the Pernambuco region are mainly populated by bull and tiger sharks, which Silva says are attracted by the jetsam emptied into the sea by two local rivers.

In July of 2013 an 18-year-old Brazilian tourist from Sao Paulo, Bruna Gobbi, died after she was bitten on the leg by a shark at the Boa Viagem beach.

"Tourists often are not aware of the problem with sharks here, nor do they know the prevention measures. So we’ve needed to reinforce our efforts," Silva said.   Continued...

A toy shark appears to hold a Brazilian flag, on the beach where signs warn swimmers of the risk of shark attack, in Recife June 12, 2014.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder