A DESPERATE hunt has been launched after a snorkeler in Hawaii was feared to have been dragged underwater by a shark.

Officers said the missing woman's husband sounded the alarm after spotting the shark shortly before his wife went missing.


Emergency crews were scrambled to Keawakapu Point on Hawaii's South Maui island early Thursday afternoon.

State officials said the woman's husband was snorkelling just 50 metres off the coast when he noticed a shark repeatedly swim past.

After looking for his wife, who was also snorkelling, the man returned to shore and called 911, according to the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).

First responders and officers from the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement are currently on the scene searching for the missing woman.

An urgent warning has been issued telling swimmers to stay clear of the area until at least noon on Friday.

DLNR spokesman Dan Dennison said the air and water search will continue until nightfall, with crews expected to restart on Friday morning.

The US Coast Guard sent a C130 Hercules plane and a helicopter to help with the search.

Maui's last recorded shark attack was on September 3 this year when a snorkeler was bitten in Paia Bay.

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The woman lost her left arm and two right fingers and suffered puncture wounds to her torso.

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