Two men have died while gathering seafood off the North Otago coast this evening.

Police said three men were reported to be missing in the water in Kakanui near Oamaru, off Harbour Terrace, about 5.30pm.

The Otago Daily Times was told this evening the men had been swept off rocks into the sea.

One man made his way back to shore but a second man was found dead by a helicopter and brought back to shore.

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The third man was also located deceased by a surfer who assisted with getting the victim to a boat to be returned to shore.

A member of the public first contacted police saying they had seen what appeared to be two divers struggling in the water.

Police and ambulance were at the scene and rescue helicopters were in the air. Around 6.20pm police said one diver had been pulled from the water, but another was still missing.

Police said they would like to thank the locals of Kakanui and others who assisted with the rescue and recovery this evening.

The deaths would likely to be referred to the Coroner.

This story was first published on the Otago Daily Times.