Adrila Muniz was on a family holiday with her grandmother and four other children when their canoe capsized during a thunderstorm at Rio Maicuru, in Monte Alegre. The grandmother managed to rescue the others but lost her grip on the little girl.

“I tried to hold on to her, but with all the other children she slipped out my grasp,” she told local media. “I couldn’t see her anymore when we got to the bank.”

Adrila’s body was recovered after a pool of blood and a shoal of piranhas were spotted around her. The ferocious predators had devoured her legs down to the bone.

It is not clear whether Adrila may have drowned before she was attacked by the fish. There are also conflicting reports as to the number of people in the canoe, with Newrondonia reporting that the grandfather and the mother of the girl were also on board.

Some Brazilian rivers have warning signs alerting bathers to the potentially lethal presence of piranhas. Fatal attacks are rare, but isolated bites to extremities such as the feet and hands are not unusual.

Piranhas are commonly found in bodies of water in and around the Amazon rainforest, and their fearsome reputation is well justified as the carnivorous breeds are armed with razor-sharp teeth, powerful jaws and a voracious appetite.

The killer fish – which are also a popular food for humans – typically grow to between five and 10 inches long. However, specimens up to 17 inches long have been recorded.