Florida: Woman forced to undergo amputation among three hurt in shark attacks

People swimming off Florida's Gulf coast are being told to beware of sharks after three people were hurt in two separate attacks in Walton County.

A woman who was bitten on Friday afternoon near Watersound Beach sustained critical injuries on her midsection and arm, South Walton fire chief Ryan Crawford said.

Part of her arm had to be amputated, he added.

Less than two hours later, firefighters were called to another beach about four miles east of the first assault.

Two teenage girls were in waist-deep water with a group of friends when they were attacked, the South Walton Fire District said.

One of them had "significant injuries to the upper leg and one hand".

"For two of these incidents to happen on the same day is highly unusual," Mr Crawford said.

The time of the attacks - in the middle of the afternoon - was also unusual, Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson said.

Police, firefighters and the state's wildlife agency are patrolling the water.

A 14ft hammerhead shark was spotted off Santa Rosa Beach on Saturday, Walton County Sheriff's Office said.

That is "not uncommon", it said, adding: "We want to reiterate that sharks are always present in the Gulf. Swimmers and beachgoers should be cautious when swimming and stay aware of their surroundings."

Small fish are travelling in schools near the shore at this time of year, and that may be a contributing factor in the attacks, the Bay County Sheriff's Office said.

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Red and purple flags are being used to warn swimmers.

"Purple flags indicate the presence of dangerous marine life and single red flags indicate high hazard conditions," the Bay County Sheriff's Office said.

There were 69 unprovoked shark bites last year worldwide, and 10 of those were fatal, according to the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File.