WELLINGTON - Three people are missing feared drowned after students on a New Zealand climbing expedition were swept off rocks into rough seas on Wednesday, rescuers said.
The group of 13, including a number of international students, were climbing a rugged headland near the North Island town of New Plymouth when three tumbled into the water, police said.
One student - reportedly from Germany - was rescued but two others and an instructor who leapt into the sea to save them were missing.
"There's no sign of them at this stage, the surf's pretty heavy and there's obviously a lot of white water which is clouding the area," Phil Dwyer, from the Taranaki Rescue Helicopter, told Radio New Zealand.
He said there were grave fears for the missing trio, who were not wearing life vests.
"The chance of survival is not very good at this stage, they've been in the water a long time, the water's very cold at the moment, the surf's really heavy and it's going on dark as well," he said.
"It's not making things very easy but we're keeping our fingers crossed." Police were unable to confirm the identities or ages of the missing.
But local media said it was one international and one New Zealand student, as well as the New Zealand instructor.
TVNZ reported the student who was successfully plucked from the sea was from Germany and had been taken to hospital suffering hypothermia.
The rest of the group were safe and the rescue effort would continue as long as possible, police said.