Piranhas Attack Dozens of Swimmers and Rip Girl's Toe Off at Argentina Bathing Spot

Dozens of people have been attacked by piranhas at a popular swimming spot in Santa Fe, Argentina.

Images of the attack were published by local news websites. One 13-year-old girl had her toe torn off. Another image showed a chunk of flesh missing from a woman's finger. One of the victims had a large section of flesh from her foot taken, while a fourth had a hole in her big toe.

Reports suggest up to 30 people were injured.

The attack took place between November 20 and 22 at the Setúbal lagoon. According to El Litoral, lifeguards working on the beach treated injured people and put red flags up to get people out of the water. The report said piranha attacks are known to happen in Argentina, but they normally take place later in the year. It is thought high temperatures caused them to migrate to the area earlier than normal.

According to El Tribuno, Monday was a national holiday in Argentina and temperatures had reached almost 39C (102F), meaning many people had visited the beaches around Santa Fe.

A statement from Santa Fe officials said it is forbidden to enter the water. Recreational bathing is only permitted at designated swimming areas and the Setúbal lagoon is only to be used for sunbathing, it said.

The statement said the piranha attack was the result of unusually high temperatures coupled with an "exceptional downspout" of the Paraná River.

Cintia Gauna, director of risk management for the municipality, said the water was also dangerous as a result of deep water and unstable soil. The statement said that as well as piranhas, there was a risk of sting rays and snakes because of the current conditions.

It said it expects piranhas to continue to be present in the area for the next few months.

Sergio Berardi, from the lifeguard union of Santa Fe, told El Litoral that they had not expected piranha attacks so early in the year. "The first and most effective aid is prevention, not entering the water when the first case appears," he said. "Those who go with minor children, do not leave them in the water."

There are around 60 species of piranha living in South America. They are carnivorous fish that normally travel in shoals and while they tend to be scavengers or feed on plant material, they can be incredibly aggressive.

In Argentina in 2013, 70 people were injured in a piranha attack. Bathers were swimming in the Parana River in Rosario on Christmas Day when the attack took place. According to The Associated Press, seven children lost parts of their fingers or toes in the attack.

piranha
Stock photo of a piranha. The attack in Argentina saw 20 people injured. Getty Images