New Zealand man killed in shark attack

A New Zealand man was killed in a rare shark attack at a popular tourist beach on Wednesday, with police forced to shoot at the predator from a boat to retrieve the victim's body, officials said.

The attack took place at Muriwai Beach, 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Auckland at about 1:30 pm (1230 GMT), police said, and is the first confirmed shark fatality in the country for more than 35 years.

The St John ambulance service said the victim was a 47-year-old man, who witnesses said was a local who had been swimming about 100 metres offshore when he was attacked.

They reported seeing a huge patch of blood in the water and said swimmers, including a large group of students on an excursion to the beach, scrambled for shore as the cry of "shark" went up.

"Everybody was evacuated from the water, word of mouth -- 'shark!' -- and everybody left the water," witness Stef McCallum told Fairfax Media.

Muriwai Lifeguard Service volunteer Tim Jago said it was a "very big shark", about four metres (14 feet) long, believed to be a great white, the species depicted in the 1975 Steven Spielberg blockbuster "Jaws".

He said the shark was still biting the victim's body when police arrived and they went out with volunteers in an inflatable rescue boat and shot at the animal to distract it while they pulled the body aboard.

"The shark rolled away, it disappeared from sight and has not been seen since," Jago told Radio New Zealand, adding beaches in the area would remain closed until Friday in case the animal had survived the shooting and remained nearby.

The last confirmed shark death in the country was in 1976, according to the Te Ara Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. A death in 2009 is often attributed to sharks, but investigators could not be sure the victim had not drowned before being mauled.