Friends are increasingly worried for the safety of a Timaru woman last seen in a van driven by a man police fear may be armed.

Nicole Brown has been missing for more than 24 hours and despite a manhunt throughout Canterbury there has been no sign of the maroon Hiace van nor the distinctive 2m-tall driver, George Smith.

Friends have posted on social media Brown is in danger and are desperate for information.

Tata Lloyd said no one had heard from her friend in the past day and she was "freaking stressing".

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She feared her friend was in danger and was desperate for any word of her whereabouts.

Police believe 35-year-old Smith is armed and warn he should not be approached. Instead, they asked members of the public to immediately call 111 if they see him.

George Smith. Photo / Supplied
George Smith. Photo / Supplied

They say Smith could also be driving a silver Ford Territory with the registration DFK591.

Smith was last seen in her maroon and silver Toyota Hiace on Ayr St, Timaru, about 5am yesterday.

The car's registration was AZZ286.

Brown also went by the name Nicole Smith, police said.

Police wanted to hear from the missing pair to make sure they were okay, Detective Inspector Darryl Sweeney said.

Police urged anyone with information about Brown or Smith to call Christchurch police on 03 363 7661 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.