A six-year-old child has died after piranhas stripped the flesh from her legs when she fell into the water from her grandmother's canoe.

The accident happened during a family holiday when the girl toppled into the water in Rio Maicuru in Monte Alegre.

According to family reports, Adrila Muniz was with her grandmother and other children when the canoe capsized. The distraught grandmother tried to hold on to the little girl, but lost her grip and the child fell into the water.

Speaking to local media, the grandmother said: "I tried to hold onto her, but with all the other children around she slipped out of my grasp.

"I couldn't see her any more when we got to the bank."

An alarm was raised to search for the girl, but when Muniz was eventually found, local police could see signs that piranhas has stripped the flesh from her legs.

It's believed that the girl died by drowning and was then attacked by piranhas.

Her body was sent to the morgue of the Municipal Hospital of Monte Alegre and was later released to the family for burial.

Piranha attacks in Brazil are rare but can be very dangerous. In January this year, businessman Rafael Solomon says he was attacked by a shoal of piranhas when he was swimming in Lake Corumbá, in Caldas Novas.

He realised he had been bitten on the foot by the killer fish – even though there were no warning signs about the presence of piranhas. "Luckily I am an adult and I got out of the lake pretty quickly. But it could be fatal for a child," he told Globo News.

The Department of Environment of Caldas Novas stated it would put up more signs to alert swimmers of the dangers. "The city of Caldas Novas has produced new cards to warn swimmers. It is expected that the new cards will be installed by the end of this week. "

There were calls for more information about the presence of piranhas after civil servant Abraham Marcelo de Oliveira, 44, lost half a finger, bitten off by a fish while swimming in the lake last year.