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Shark scares at Port and Mullaloo beaches clear the surf

As Perth sweltered through its hottest Christmas in more than a century, shark scares up and down the coast on Christmas Day sent hundreds of beachgoers scrambling out of the water.

The sweltering 41-degree heat prompted thousands to flock to their nearby beaches to cool off in the ocean and celebrate on the coast, but many were met with an unwelcome surprise.

At least 10 confirmed shark sightings were recorded in the Perth and South West in just a few hours on Saturday, keeping Surf Life Saving lifeguards on watch and on edge.

A SLS spokesperson said all of the sightings came from the SLS helicopter or lifeguards.

“It’s certainly well above average (number of sightings) for any given day,” the spokesperson told The Sunday Times.

“From what our lifeguards said, most of the public were great and co-operated, and behaved really well.

“But there were a few that didn’t want to listen and get out of the water — probably because it was so hot — so that wasn’t ideal for the staff trying to keep everyone safe.”

At Port Beach, swimmers were also cleared from the water after two 2.5m sharks were spotted circling 20m out from the beach.

The sighting comes just weeks after father of two Paul Millachip was mauled to death at the popular swimming spot. The Perth local had been swimming about 30m offshore when he was dragged underwater by a shark.

One family, who spent their first Christmas on the beach since moving to Perth from the UK, said hearing the shark alarm was unnerving.

“It’s been a lovely, hot day but we were a bit anxious with the shark sighting and the helicopter circling the beach,” James Smith said.

“So we didn’t go in too deep, just had a little paddle.”

At Mullaloo beach, lifesavers are tracking a “shape” and “dark colour” only 30-40m offshore, moving slowly north of the Mullaloo Surf Club.

Loud alarms at 8:55am left the water deserted, with swimmers told to wait 30 minutes before returning to the ocean.

South of Perth, lifesavers closed Coogee beach after a 2.5m tiger shark was sighted just five metres offshore.

Beach-goers were back in the ocean at Coogee in the afternoon, with a young girl seen enjoying the water with an inflatable shark.

Meanwhile, Cottesloe beach was packed with people decked out in festive gear, embarking on their annual holiday tradition.

Nadia Matthews took her two kids, Sabi and Kenzi, to the popular beach to meet up with some friends to kickstart the holiday fun — a yearly tradition for the family.

“It’s a beautiful morning down here. It’s nice with the wind it’s not blowing too much, and everyone is happy,” Ms Matthews said.

“We got free candy canes from the coffee shop, it’s just an awesome morning.”

The mother-of-two said she feels “very lucky” to be able to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, despite having some family stuck on the Gold Coast.

“It’s quite sad making the phone call over east to the family because we can’t be together. But at the same time they are happy and healthy, and we are happy and healthy.

“That’s all that matters at the end of the day. It’s worth it.”

For English woman Katie Porter, Christmas is a little different this year away from family and friends, but that hasn’t stopped her and her work crew celebrating in style.

Decked out in matching bikinis and Christmas hats, she was among a group of doctors who brought their beach towels, speakers, and drinks ready to tackle the heat.

“We’re all from the UK so it is hard to be away from family, but we are planning to go back in like six months time if it all opens up again,” Ms Porter said.

“We have a big day planned here at the beach, and then we are all going to meet for a big Christmas dinner at 7pm.”

Swan Valley recorded the highest temperate in the Perth metro area, reaching 41.5 degrees, closely followed by Perth Airport at 41.4 degrees and Swanbourne at 41.3 degrees.

Despite the heatwave, St John Ambulance did not transport any patients suffering from heat stroke.

The mercury on Christmas night was tipped to reach a balmy 27C, with little relief on the horizon.

A maximum of 44 degrees is expected on Boxing Day and 40 degrees on Monday.

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