Recife works to warn World Cup visitors of sharks

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 19, 2014 at 10:18 am •  Published: June 19, 2014
Advertisement
;

RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — Newlywed Akiko Ishihama let out a nervous laugh when asked if she realized that she was honeymooning on a beach well known for deadly shark attacks.

"Not at all," she answered as she gazed at the aquamarine water lapping up against the inviting stretch of sand called Boa Viagem Praia. "Maybe I'll stay on the beach and get suntanned."

Ishihama, 28, and her husband, Makoto, 32, kicked off their honeymoon by attending Saturday's World Cup match between Japan and Ivory Coast in nearby Arena Pernambuco. They are among tens of thousands of visitors from around the globe descending on this city in northeastern Brazil to see one of five matches.

The popular, sun-bleached Boa Viagem beach — which translates to safe journey beach — lies only a few miles south of Recife's city center. Less than a year ago, a woman was killed by a shark here, one of 24 deadly attacks around Recife since 1992.

Brazilians know the dangers, but government officials have stepped up efforts to warn tourists, erecting signs in English and Spanish with the words "Danger," and "Peligro," fire department spokesman Valdy Oliveira said.

The department has increased from 50 to 70 the number lifeguards patrolling the beaches near hotels, Oliveira said.

"We reinforced our safety protocol near hotels because of these shark attacks," he said. "We have specially done it in places where water is murky."

Yet not everyone notices the signs, and service industry workers can't effectively warn tourists — most of whom don't speak Portuguese or Spanish.

Ishihama said she and her husband probably would have entered the water unaware of the beach's reputation for shark attacks. No one had said a word to them about sharks — at least, not that they understood.

"There's only one guy working at our hotel who speaks English," Ishihama said.

Several lifeguards sit together under a tent almost directly in front of the spot where the last attack took place. Another, riding a personal watercraft, lurches over the breakers as he takes a path parallel to the beach as if to shepherd swimmers close to shore.