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Kiwi mum, two kids in NSW tragedy

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/04/2017
© SNPA

Police divers have begun searching for the bodies of a New Zealand woman and two of her children believed to be entombed in their car after it was swept into a raging northern NSW river.

The woman's eight-year-old daughter miraculously escaped the car as it was washed into the swollen, murky water on Monday afternoon.

The 43-year-old woman, believed to be from Auckland but living in Australia, her seven-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter, are feared drowned after the family car veered off a muddy road in Tumbulgum into the surging Tweed River.

The family is reportedly from nearby Bilambil with media naming the missing mother as Stephanie King, her son Jacob Kabealo and daughter Ella-Jane Kabealo.

Eight-year-old Chloe ran to a nearby farm screaming for help, it's been reported.

Tweed Byron LAC Chief Inspector Mick Dempsey said the car had been located using sonar equipment, about five metres from the northern bank of the river.

"I think it's gone from a rescue operation to a recovery operation," he told ABC radio.

The eight-year-old girl suffered only scratches and cuts but no life-threatening injuries.

"She's obviously traumatised by the incident," Insp Dempsey told ABC radio.

It's reported the road the car was travelling on was closed and covered in flood debris, but locals continued using it to get to homes in the area.

"A number of witnesses saw the vehicle go into the water ... they haven't given us a full description of how the incident occurred," Insp Dempsey said.

It's the latest catastrophe in what's been a devastating few days for flood-hit northern NSW residents, with two women aged 36 and 64 confirmed dead and a 46-year-old man dying of a heart attack when paramedics couldn't reach him.

A massive clean-up operation is under way as communities pick up the pieces of ruined homes and businesses in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.

Tumbulgum, with a population of just 400, remains under evacuation orders.

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