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Canoer Survives Encounter With Shark Off Reunion Island; Fifth Attack Of The Year

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SAINT-GILLES, Reunion -- A canoer was attacked by a shark off the western shore of Reunion, a French island located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. Jean-Pierre Castellani, 51, was unharmed though shaken by the encounter. This is the fifth shark attack off Reunion's shores since the beginning of year, including two deaths.

The incident occurred at 10:15 local time, when Castellani was in his Hawaiian canoe 200 meters off of Saint-Gilles.

Castellani said the canoe was bitten and then pushed backed, which caused him to fall into the water. "I was protected by reflex, by hitting the shark," he said. Castellani was in the water for about ten minutes before a nearby boat picked him up.

"He had the fright of his life. Fortunately for him, the shark did not return," said Nicolas Le Bianic, director of the CROSS (Regional Operational Centre for Surveillance and Rescue). "Not having been wounded, he did not need special assistance and was brought ashore."

For reasons unknown, shark attacks have increased since the beginning of the year on the west coast of the island, where surfers were killed on June 15 and September 19.

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