United States

Florida Gulf Coast On Alert, Multiple Shark Attacks Prompt Warnings For Beachgoers

Florida authorities have urged Gulf Coast beachgoers to remain vigilant after two shark attacks left three swimmers injured. Both attacks happened in less than two hours.

Representative image Photo: X

Authorities in Florida have urged Gulf Coast beachgoers to stay vigilant after two separate shark attacks that left three swimmers injured on Friday. The incidents occurred in Walton County, northwest Florida, prompting authorities to patrol the shoreline and temporarily close some beaches.

The first attack happened at approximately 1:20 pm near WaterSound Beach. A 45-year-old woman suffered critical injuries to her hip and lower left arm, leading to the amputation of part of her arm. She was airlifted to a nearby hospital for emergency treatment.

In less than two hours, at around 2:55 pm, another attack happened on two teenage girls. The girls were swimming with friends in waist-deep water near Seacrest Beach, about four miles east of the first attack site. One girl sustained significant injuries to her upper leg and hand, while the other had minor injuries to her foot. Both were attended to by local fire officials.

Authorities have been patrolling the shoreline in boats to ensure safety after these attacks were reported. Some beaches were initially closed, but they reopened on Saturday with purple flags indicating the presence of dangerous marine life.

"Please swim carefully, respect the Gulf, stay hydrated, and look out for your loved ones," the South Walton Fire District cautioned on social media platform X.

The Walton County Sheriff's Office also reported spotting a 14-foot hammerhead shark off Santa Rosa Beach during patrols but emphasized that such sightings are not unusual. "We want to reiterate that sharks are always present in the Gulf," they wrote on X, urging swimmers to remain cautious and aware of their surroundings.

According to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File (ISAF), usually between 70 to 100 shark attacks happen around the globe each year, resulting in around five fatalities. In 2023, there were 69 unprovoked shark bites on humans and 22 provoked bites worldwide.

In Florida, most shark attacks involve requiem sharks, a family of sharks that like warm seas. Such sharks include bull sharks or blacktip sharks. These incidents of shark attacks commonly occur in near shore waters, particularly around sandbars where sharks feed and can become trapped at low tide.

Authorities suggested that the presence of small fish traveling in schools near the shore might have contributed to Friday's attacks. The timing of the attacks, in the middle of the afternoon, was noted as an anomaly by Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson.