SYDNEY • A woman is feared dead after being taken by a crocodile following a late night swim with a friend at a beach in northern Australia, police said yesterday.
The women, both in their 40s, went for a stroll on Thornton Beach, in the far north of Queensland state, on Sunday evening before making a fateful decision to go for a dip in an area known to be infested with crocodiles.
Police Senior Constable Russell Parker said the women, believed to be Australian tourists visiting the area, were in waist-deep water when one of them was grabbed, with her friend desperately trying to drag her to safety.
"Her friend tried valiantly to drag her to the shore but, unfortunately, wasn't able to do so and the woman subsequently disappeared. Her friend raised the alarm with a nearby business and they subsequently contacted the police," he said.
Nine News cited witnesses as hearing the woman yell "a croc's got me, a croc's got me".
A rescue helicopter was sent up with thermal imaging equipment but was unable to find her.
Senior Constable Parker added that the surviving woman was "very, very shaken and shocked" but appeared to have escaped with only grazes.
Crocodiles are common in the country's tropical north, and they kill an average of two people each year.
Earlier this month, a desperate fisherman threw spanners and spark plugs to fight off circling crocodiles after his friend drowned when one of the reptiles capsized their small boat near Darwin.
Crocodile numbers have increased since the introduction of protection laws in 1971, with estimates putting the Northern Territory's population in the wild at 100,000.
"You can't legislate against human stupidity. This is a tragedy, but it was avoidable. There are warning signs everywhere up there," said Mr Warren Entsch, Liberal Party MP for the Queensland electorate of Leichardt.
Mr Entsch said he fears the attack would lead to a "vendetta" against crocodiles that could be detrimental to the area's economy.
The search for the woman will continue today.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA