September 15, 2017 04:44 GMT by dailymail.co.uk

British tourist 'pulled underwater by a crocodile'

British tourist 'pulled underwater by a crocodile'

Paul McClean is believed to have been snatched as he washed his hands during in a lagoon or river set back from the beach in an area called Elephant Rock, near Arugam Bay in the East of Sri Lanka.

Paul McClean is believed to have been snatched as he washed his hands during a surfing holiday

Paul McClean is believed to have been snatched as he washed his hands during a surfing holiday

A journalist for the Financial Times is feared to have been dragged into a lagoon and killed by a crocodile in Sri Lanka.

Paul McClean is believed to have been snatched as he washed his hands during a surfing holiday.

Witnesses said they saw the 24-year-old wave his arms in the air before vanishing under the water.

Police and the army launched a hunt but it is feared the crocodile may have hidden his body in the muddy lagoon.

The crocodile is believed to have struck yesterday afternoon as Mr McClean was washing his hands in a lagoon or river set back from the beach in an area called Elephant Rock, a popular surfing area for British backpackers, near Arugam Bay in the East of Sri Lanka.

Fawas Lafeer, owner of Safa Surf School, near the scene, said: ‘He was learning to surf and after that he wanted to go to the toilet.

Witnesses said they saw Mr McClean wave his arms in the air before vanishing under the water
Mr McClean was said to have been learning to surf

Witnesses said they saw Mr McClean wave his arms in the air before vanishing under the water

Locals gather near the scene of the tragedy at the popular surf spot shortly afterwards

Locals gather near the scene of the tragedy at the popular surf spot shortly afterwards

Police and the army launched a hunt but it is feared the crocodile may have hidden Mr McClean's body in the muddy lagoon

Police and the army launched a hunt but it is feared the crocodile may have hidden Mr McClean's body in the muddy lagoon

‘He went in the jungle, about 800 meters. It was when he was washing his hands that the crocodile took him.

‘A local fisherman witnessed a man being dragged into a river, set back from the beach, by a crocodile. 

'The fisherman was on the opposite side of the river and downstream.

‘The police were called immediately. They can’t do anything because the river is deep and murky, it is not very clear.’ 

Mr McClean is said to have snatched at a lagoon known as Elephant Rock (pictured)

Mr McClean is said to have snatched at a lagoon known as Elephant Rock (pictured)

This aerial photo shows Elephant Rock which backs on to murky coastal marshland 

This aerial photo shows Elephant Rock which backs on to murky coastal marshland 

Witnesses: An Australian man named Sean Carroll posted about the incident on Facebook

Witnesses: An Australian man named Sean Carroll posted about the incident on Facebook

He added: ‘They have sent out the Navy, Army and the task force, but I doubt they will find the body.

First class graduate: Paul McClean in profile 

Mr McClean graduated with a first class degree in French from Oxford University.

He began working at the FT in September 2015 and was previously based in Brussels, covering Brexit for the newspaper.

He lived in Thames Ditton, Surrey, with his brother Neil, 22, and his parents Peter, 66, and Irene, 59.

His father is the director of a management consultancy company and his mother is a reception manager at a health club.

Mr McClean earlier left Hinchley Wood School in Esher, Surrey, with 11 A*s and one A.

‘The crocodiles take the bodies along river and hide them in the mud, so I don’t think he will be found until the day after tomorrow.

‘This is the first time anything like this has happened, Elephant Rock is always safe to surf.’

Another British tourist, who did not wish to give his name, said: ‘A British tourist was at a surf spot called Elephant Rock.

‘There’s a lagoon right next to the sea. He went to the toilet next to the lagoon and was grabbed by a crocodile.

‘There are lots in the lagoon. People last saw his arms in the air in the water and then was grabbed under…

‘They are searching for a body but haven’t found anything yet.

‘The army were down and there are people put on boats checking the shore because crocodile won’t eat anything in water – they will take it on to dry land to eat prey.

‘They are 90 per cent sure it was a crocodile but a couple of the guys said there was quicksand in the lagoon.’

Killer crocs: The alleged crocodile attack is the second in Sri Lanka this year

Killer crocs: The alleged crocodile attack is the second in Sri Lanka this year

‘A few people that knew the guy were just on the ground, I didn’t get that close but they all just seemed in shock and not saying much. 

How crocodiles are merciless killers 

Crocodiles use their powerful tails to swim up to 25mph, which is almost as fast as Usain Bolt’s highest recorded sprinting speed.

In Africa alone there are several hundred crocodile attacks on people each year. Between a third and a half of these attacks result in fatalities.

Crocodile attacks are far more common than shark attacks, but because many take place in small and impoverished communities they do not receive as much media coverage.

The two breeding crocodile species in Sri Lanka are the mugger crocodile and saltwater crocodiles. The term ‘mugger’ comes from the Urdu word ‘magar’ which translates as ‘water monster’.

Experts say poking a crocodile’s eyes or hitting its nose can save you during an attack. This is because both are sensitive areas.

Crocodiles first appeared on the earth 240million years ago and they can live for up to 80 years.

Each crocodile jaw has 24 teeth that are meant to grasp and crush, not chew.

Crocodiles swallow stones which help grind food inside their stomachs.

During mating seasons, it is not uncommon for crocodiles to become increasingly aggressive. 

‘There were a large crowd of Sri Lankan men surrounding them and they had bits of paper.’

Another shocked man, Sean Carroll, from New South Wales, Australia, wrote on Facebook: ‘A croc just took a tourist bloke in Sri Lanka.

‘He was walking on a beach where a small river meets the sea, it’s named Crocodile Rock for that reason obviously.

‘He still hasn’t been retrieved from river. Heavy.’

‘I’m sure he was close to the river for it to take him. Police looking and army too.’

There are two different kinds of crocodile that live in Sri Lanka, the Marsh, or ‘Mugger’, crocodile and the estuarine crocodile.

There are believed to be thousands of marsh crocodiles spread throughout various water bodies in the island.

In April of this year, a 13-year-old girl was attacked and dragged away by a crocodile while she was enjoying a day out with her family at Pulnewa Lake, in Galnewa.

The girl was reported missing by her family, who said they saw her being dragged into the water by the large reptile.

Prior to this, in July 2016, a 60-year-old Sri Lankan man was also killed in a crocodile attack.

He had been fishing in the Paayindan River in Sammanthurai when he was attacked.

In November 2016 a 17 foot crocodile, which weighed nearly a ton, was found jammed in a waterway in the southern city of Matara.

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