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Surfer says he was lucky not to lose arm when shark hit his board off Australian east coast


SYDNEY — A surfer said he was lucky not to lose an arm when a shark bit his board off Australia's most populous state on Tuesday.

Justin Daniels, 42, received a single tooth puncture wound to the back of his left hand when the shark clamped its jaws around the board's edge off Shelley Beach, 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Sydney.

"I'm just lucky I've still got my left arm," Daniels told reporters. "It easily could have taken my hand or my arm or come back for me."

The attack was the 13th off the New South Wales state coast this year, according to records compiled by Sydney's Taronga Zoo. There were only three attacks off New South Wales last year, including two fatalities.

Daniels, who surfs daily, said he was paddling his board out to sea when a 1.8-meter (6-foot) shark struck from beneath.

"'Bang,' it felt like a battleship hitting my board. Threw me straight off up into the air," Daniels said. "My board got separated from me, then I saw the shark underneath me."

Daniels swam 3 meters (10 feet) back to the board "and paddled like hell in."

The only fatal attack off New South Wales this year occurred Feb. 9 when Japanese tourist Tadashi Nakahara, 41, lost both legs while surfing off Ballina. Another six attacks have resulted in injuries.

Sharks are common off Australia's beaches, but fatal attacks are rare. The country has averaged fewer than two deadly attacks per year in recent decades.

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