updated 12/2/2006 12:45:06 AM ET 2006-12-02T05:45:06

A 15-year-old Australian boy had his leg bitten off in a shark attack on Saturday while swimming off a remote beach on the country’s southwest coast, police said.

The boy was swimming with a group of young friends off Wharton Beach near Esperance on the southwest coast of Western Australia state when the shark attacked.

“He has lost one of his legs,” said a police spokesman, adding the leg was bitten off just above the right knee.

Police said the boy survived because of quick action by people on the beach who stemmed the loss of blood. The boy was in a stable condition in hospital.

“The friends kept the blood loss to a minimum and that has probably made the difference between him having his life saved, and being in a relatively stable condition, to being much worse off,” acting police sergeant Laurie Seton told local media.

Local surf lifesavers said the ocean near Esperance was known as a shark habitat. The beach has been closed and a helicopter was trying to locate the shark.

Australia had a spate of shark attacks early in 2006.

A scuba diver off the Western Australian city of Perth survived an attack by a great white shark in January after fighting it off with his speargun and then his hands.

A 21-year-old woman died in January after she was attacked by three sharks while swimming off an island on Australia’s northeast coast. She lost both forearms and suffered wounds to the legs and torso.

Australia’s first recorded shark attack was in 1791. As of August 2006, there had been a total of 668 attacks in Australian waters, 191 of them fatal, according to the Australian Shark Attack File at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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