Seventy people trying to escape the blazing heat of the Argentine sun were attacked by carnivorous fish kin to the vicious piranha when they attempted to bathe and swim in the Parana River Wednesday, authorities said. Seven of those injured were children who lost fingers and toes to the savage fish.
The Associated Press reported (via Yahoo News) Dec. 26 that people went into the river in Rosario, Argentina, on Christmas Day to gain a little relief from the sun. However, cooling sensations weren't all that was felt while in the water. People soon began complaining about bite marks found on their hands and feet.
Frederico Cornier, director of emergency services, said that likely culprit were palometas.
He said that palometas were “a type of piranha, big, voracious and with sharp teeth that can really bite.”
"This is not normal," Cornier said on television, according to Reuters (via Yahoo News). "It's normal for there to be an isolated bite or injury, but the magnitude in this case was great ... this is an exceptional event."
Paramedic Alberto Manino said some of the children he treated lost entire digits in the attack. He told the Todo Noticias channel that city beaches were closed following the attack, but within a half-hour, many people went back to the water to escape the heat.
An Associated Press report from 1988 noted that the palometa piranha was normally a passive fish. Smaller than a piranha, they could grow to about a foot in length, and, unlike the piranha, did not hunt and attack in schools, choosing to inflict damage on their prey solo. Biologist Carlos Lucena of the Agriculture Department of Rio Grande do Sul, the Brazilian state that borders Argentina and Uruguay, said that the palometa piranha was turning more aggressive and vicious due to overpopulation and a lack of natural enemies, such as the alligator and the dourado fish
Rosario is located about 190 miles northwest and upriver of Buenos Aires.