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Fatal Shark Attacks Scare Swimmers

June 19, 1995

HONG KONG (AP) _ The beaches of Sai Kung are usually packed on the Queen’s birthday holiday, but the glittering water was mostly deserted Monday as Hong Kong suffered a real-life version of ``Jaws.″

Instead of swimmers, northern Hong Kong beaches attracted binocular-toting sightseers hoping for a glimpse of the shark _ or sharks _ that have killed three swimmers in 17 days.

The events closely parallel ``Jaws,″ the novel and movie about an American resort town terrorized by a killer shark. Shark attacks occur close to shore _ one just 45 feet out to sea; merchants grumble about lost trade; a few daredevils brave danger and wade in the water; authorities face pressure to solve the problem.

Then there are the shark-spotters _ professionals with sonar gear and landlubber amateurs like Daniel Cheng, who goes from beach to beach with binoculars in search of sharks.

But in ``Jaws,″ the killer was a great white shark. Experts say the Hong Kong killings are the work of Tiger sharks.

TV viewers have seen striking footage of a dark hulk, some 12 feet long, gliding just below the water’s surface. Newspapers have published photos of a dead victim being hauled from the water, missing chunks of flesh on both legs.

On Monday, as the British colony celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday, there were shark sightings around Sai Kung, but no attacks were reported.

Snack shop owner Lam Tsuen is haunted by the attack of June 2, in which a shark killed a 29-year-old swimmer.

``We saw the man struggling as though he was drowning. We tried to swim to his rescue but then somebody shouted `sa yue’ (shark) and we hurried back to shore,″ said Lam, 33. ``I then saw a pool of blood welling up around the man’s body.″ By the time rescuers arrived in boats, it was too late.

Since then, swimmers have gone elsewhere; Lam says he has lost most of his business.

At government-managed beaches, warning flags feature a shark’s fin and helicopters and lifeguards in boats patrol for sharks.

The government has resisted a full-scale shark hunt. ``If we kill one or two sharks, it may give people a wrong impression that the danger is over,″ government spokesman Michael Chui said.

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