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Toddler still missing in West Coast river

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/06/2016

The parents of a two-year-old girl swept away in a flooded West Coast river were helping possum trappers to get to the other side.

On Friday police recovered the body of Barry Petrie, 66, a possum trapper, and named the missing child as Emily Saunders.

The 4WD became submerged while crossing the swollen Poerua River, near Harihari, south of Hokitika, on Thursday.

Emily's parents, an English couple who sharemilk in the area, and one possum trapper managed to escape from the vehicle, media reported.

"They had attempted to assist Mr Petrie and a co-worker of his who were undertaking some possum control work on the opposite side of the river," Sergeant Paul Watson told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme.

An air and water search was called off at dusk on Friday.

It is suspended until Monday because another large weather front is moving through the area, Sgt Watson said.

The river has been rising all day and will continue to rise, he said.

Inspector Mel Aitken earlier said poor weather conditions were making things difficult for rescue crews.

A helicopter was used to scour the area while a boat and members of LandSAR's white water rescue team in kayaks had also been searching the river but nothing has been found.

MetService meteorologist Peter Little said between 50mm and 100mm of rain had fallen in the area since the pair went missing.

Heavy rain across the Southern Alps has caused rivers and streams to rise and a severe weather warning is in place for much of the area.

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