A shoal of piranhas has attacked bathers in the Argentinian province of Rosario, injuring 70 people and resulting in amputations. Officials have suggested the freak incident was caused by the unusually high temperatures at the time of the attack.
The attack occurred on the beaches of Rambla Catalunya on the river Parana, where around 9,000 people had gathered on Christmas Day to escape the heat wave Argentina has been experiencing for the last few days
“It came out of nowhere. Suddenly people started appearing with bites on their hands and feet. It was sudden,” said Federico Cornier, director of the Emergency Medical Services (SIES), to newspaper La Nacion.
Cornier said most of the injuries that had been sustained by the bathers were light. Among the more seriously injured were a nine-year-old girl who had part of a finger bitten off, while one man had a toe amputated.
“This is not normal,” Cornier told Argentine TV. “It's normal for there to be an isolated bite or injury, but the magnitude in this case was great… this is an exceptional event.”
Following the attack lifeguards urged people to stay out of the water, but temperatures were so high that after half an hour bathers returned to the river.
This is the first time an attack of this size has been documented in the region, the vice-secretary of Natural Resources of Santa Fe, Ricardo Biasatti, said in a television interview with El Ocho. The fish that attacked the bathers were palometas, a species of piranha common in the area.
According to the Ichthyology Laboratory of the National Institute of Liminology, the fish become more active at higher temperatures. In addition, the piranhas senses are attuned to pick up even the slightest trace of blood and often attack in groups.
“When one of them bites someone it is very probable that the others will move in to attack,” said a spokesperson from the Institute.
In the 70s nets were put up around designated swimming areas in
Rosario to protect bathers from the carnivorous fish.
Argentina has been hit by a heat wave this festive season with temperatures reaching over 35 degrees over the last few days.