File Photo : Tourists snorkel near a beach of the Red Sea resort of Sahl Hasheesh, Hurghada, Egypt January 8, 2020. REUTERS
Fouad directed the committee to identify reasons and circumstances behind the attack, and gather reliable information to be analyzed according to global investigation protocols of shark attacks on humans.
The ministry’s statement did not indicate the women’s nationalities. However, AP reported on Saturday that a 68-year-old Australian woman died in Hurghada’s Nile Hospital on Friday, quoting a health official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The news agency did not mention a second victim at the time.
Red Sea Governor Amr Hanafy halted all activities at the incident’s scene with no time frame mentioned, according to a statement by the ministry. In the meantime, AP stated in its report that the governor decided on Saturday to close beaches from Sahl Hasheesh to Makadi Bay for three days, including ceasing activities of fishing boats in Hurghada.
The Ministry of Environment sent its deepest condolences to the victims’ families, asserting that the noted committee is currently investigating reasons behind the presence of a shark at the location of the victims.
Shark attacks have been relatively rare in Egypt’s Red Sea coastal region in recent years.
In 2020, a young Ukrainian boy lost an arm and an Egyptian tour guide a leg in a shark attack.
In 2018, a shark killed a Czech tourist off a Red Sea beach. A similar attack killed a German tourist in 2015.
In 2010, various shark attacks killed a European tourist and maimed several others off Sharm El-Sheikh in the Sinai Peninsula across the Red Sea from Hurghada.
This latest attack comes while Egypt’s tourism sector struggles to recover from the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war as the country heavily relies on tourists from both countries.
During the second half of 2021, Egypt’s tourism sector had picked up momentum thanks to the return of Russian tourists to Sinai in August and high-profile events such as the glitzy Pharaohs’ Golden Parade in Cairo in April, in addition to the opening of the Avenue of the Sphinxes in Luxor in late November.
According to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Egypt received 3.5 million tourists during the first six months of 2021, garnering revenues of $3.5 to $4 billion, which are almost equal to all revenues gained in 2020 when the sector had begun to recover following setbacks caused by COVID-19.
In April, UK’s Daily Mail news website selected Egypt as one of the best touristic destinations for the spring and summer of 2022, coming in second place on a list of top holiday destinations.
In the same month, Tripadvisor, the world's largest travel guidance platform, named Cairo the second most trending destination in the world and the ninth best destination for city lovers in 2022.