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Russian tourist recounts rare needlefish attack in Vietnam’s beach city

Friday, April 18, 2014, 10:23 GMT+7
Russian tourist recounts rare needlefish attack in Vietnam’s beach city
Kalinina Oxana rests at Khanh Hoa General Hospital in Khanh Hoa Province April 17, 2014.

A Russian tourist and her husband recalled Thursday how she was almost killed, by what was later identified by maritime experts as a needlefish, when they were swimming at a beach in Vietnam’s central coastal province of Khanh Hoa five days earlier.

Kalinina Oxana has recovered quickly from the rare attack at the Hon Chong beach in Nha Trang, the province’s capital city, and been able to recollect how she was rushed to Khanh Hoa General Hospital on Sunday.

She underwent a 7.5-hour surgery lasting through late Tuesday night to survive a severe spiral cord injury.

Hospital doctors sent several pieces of bones and teeth taken from a vertebra on the left side of the column section in her neck to the Institute of Oceanography in Nha Trang for identification and maritime experts at the institute said yesterday that the samples belonged to a needlefish.

Oxana said she was swimming far offshore and the sea was calm prior to the moment of the incident. The woman was swimming ashore when the attack occurred, she recalled.

When she was swimming the way back, Oxana suddenly shouted and her husband, Igor, thought “she was just pretending.”

But only when the husband approached his wife did he discover that her neck was bleeding, he said.

Igor immediately carried his wife back to the beach. Oxana was unable to move her right leg and left arm then.

The Russian victim later underwent a special semi-elective surgery lasting from 10:30 pm on Tuesday to 6:00 am on Wednesday, an hour after which she regained consciousness and recovered quite quickly, according to doctors.

The victim’s conditions became stable on Thursday morning, and doctors said she would not have to get another surgery as earlier expected.

Needlefish live in very shallow marine habitats or the surface of the sea and only eat seaweed and plankton, according to local maritime experts.

They do not usually attack humans but can sometimes hurt people accidentally with their long, narrow jaws filled with sharp teeth when they are startled or for other unexpected reasons, they said.

Some fish researchers have said the attack was an unprecedented case in Nha Trang in recent decades.

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