Five people required medical attention after getting into difficulty in the water near Bay of Plenty today.

Emergency services were called to the Karangahake Gorge near Waihi about 4.30pm after five people, believed to be from Afghanistan, got into trouble swimming in the area.

St John spokesman Robbie Walker said two people were airlifted to North Shore Hospital in serious conditions and the other three had minor injuries but were able to transport themselves out of the gorge in their own car.

Westpac Rescue Helicopter senior crewman Greg Brownson said the seriously injured patients were a male and female and lived or were staying in the North Shore region.

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He said the group was swimming in their clothes and unaware of the water risks in the gorge.