NOUMEA: A shark killed a 59-year-old Australian tourist on Sunday near a crowded beach in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, authorities said.

The man was swimming close to a pontoon around 150 metres (500 feet) from the beach in the capital Noumea when the shark attacked, biting him several times, they said.

Two people sailing their boat nearby rushed him back to the beach, where emergency services tried to save him. The man had major bite wounds in his leg and both arms, local prosecutor Yves Dupas told AFP.

He died at the scene despite receiving cardiac massage.

Many people were in the water at the time and witnessed the incident at the Chateau-Royal beach just south of Noumea.

There was a panicked rush back onto the beach and police evacuated the area.

Noumea’s mayor, Sonia Lagarde, ordered the closure of most beaches in the area and the capture of tiger sharks and bull sharks in nearby waters.

Drones were deployed to track them and two were sighted before operations were suspended at nightfall, police said.

The prosecutor said an investigation would shed more light on the circumstances of the attack, which happened inside the zone watched over by lifeguards.

A 49-year-old swimmer was seriously injured by a shark last month, also near the Chateau-Royal beach.

A surfer was also attacked by a shark a few days later but escaped without injury.

New Caledonia lies south of Vanuatu and 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) east of Australia.

It ranks 13th in the world for the total number of shark attacks, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History, which has kept a tally of worldwide shark attacks since 1958. - AFP

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