David Fickling in Sydney
Thursday January 1, 2004
You may not be bitten by a snake or snapped up by a shark while visiting Australia but the country is fatal to nearly 400 tourists a year.
A report by the government's statistics agency shows that 363 tourists died in 2002, 377 in 2000 and 371 in 1998.
It says that deaths were most common in over-55s suffering heart attacks, strokes or similar conditions, accounting for two out of five.
But the popularity of extreme sports makes visitors five times more likely than natives to die in a violent manner, nearly one in three tourist deaths resulting from external factors such as crashes or drownings.
Men are twice as likely to die as women, and visitors are most at risk between the ages of 25 and 34 and over the age of 55.
Younger visitors are liable to suicide as well, with 45 occurring in the past six years, mostly among people younger than 24, in the drab winter months of July and August.
Nearly 100 people drowned in the same period, and 283 were killed in traffic accidents and 22 by assault.
More of the fatalities came from Britain than anywhere else, but with 63,000 Britons visiting Australia every month the death rate is relatively low.
The report says the overall death rate remains relatively good, at only 0.01% of the 430,000 people who arrive in Australia every month.
The country has acquired the reputation of a tourist hazard spot in recent years, thanks to several prominent if atypical cases.
Last year a British swimmer was killed by a tiny and little-understood jellyfish in northern Queensland, and a German tourist was killed by a crocodile in Kakadu national park in the Northern Territory.
The previous year the British tourist Peter Falconio was killed and Robert Long was jailed for 20 years for murder and arson after killing 15 people by setting fire to a Queensland backpacker hostel in 2000.
Two British surfers were airlifted to hospital with spinal injuries on Tuesday after being dumped by heavy waves at Bondi Beach and Stanwell Beach, south of Sydney.