On the small French island of Reunion, off the east coast of Africa and just the other side of Madagascar, a top surfer has been killed after a quick and brutal shark attack last week. Mathieu Schiller, 32, was dragged off his board on Boucan Canot Beach by a man-eating tiger shark. He was killed in less than 30 seconds.

Schiller was a European team bodyboarding champion in 1995, and was part of a large group of surfers in the area that day. Fellow surfers tried to recover Schiller’s body, but police later said that it had been carried away by the current. “There were around 20 people in shallow water and about five surfers out deeper when it happened,” a witness told a local news agency.

“We saw the shark’s nose emerge and then the man just vanished. It was very sudden, then the animal just swam off. “Some of those nearby tried to reach him but his body was dragged away by the current.”

Schiller is the second person to be killed by a shark on that island this year. Three other people have been injured there – including one man whose leg was bitten completely off.

Is this much activity the norm in shark infested waters?

The unfortunate answer is yes. Seventy-nine shark attacks resulting in injury occurred worldwide in 2010, with 36 of these attacks reported from the shores of the United States. Australia came in second place with 14 attacks, South Africa had 8, and finally Vietnam and Egypt had 6 attacks each. These are the highest numbers in ten years, but regrettably, this year will probably be a record year.

Thus far in 2011, there have been 85 shark attacks worldwide, 74 of which resulted in injuries. Fourteen of the attacks were fatal. These are sad numbers, and our hearts go out to all the families and friends impacted by these losses.

Link to attack cases.

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Photo: albert kok