An unsuccessful search for a swimmer who went missing on Sunday afternoon in the Whanganui River has resumed today.

A rāhui was placed on the river after police were alerted to a possible drowning about 1.20pm on Sunday.

Police, ambulance and a helicopter crew were all involved in the search for the swimmer after they failed to surface.

Emergency services were called to a site near Upokongaro.

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Police said on Sunday the search has been suspended for the day but is expected to resume Monday morning with the assistance of the Police National Dive Squad.

A rāhui has now been placed on the river between Hipango Park through to the river mouth, according to the Whanganui District Council.

Police Search & Rescue along with Coastguard were working to locate the person, police said.

"We have just been advised that a rahui has been placed on the Whanganui River. This covers the area from Hipango Park through to the river mouth. No further information is available at this time."

A St John Ambulance spokeswoman said the service was notified of a "water incident" at the river, close to Papaiti Rd, at 1.22pm.

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One road ambulance crew had been deployed along with a rescue helicopter crew from Palmerston North.

The road to Mosquito Point, off Papaiti Rd, has been cordoned off as emergency services respond to a
The road to Mosquito Point, off Papaiti Rd, has been cordoned off as emergency services respond to a "water incident" at the Whanganui River. Photo / Zaryd Wilson

The ambulance crew were stood down but the helicopter had stayed to assist police. By 3.15pm both the ambulance and helicopter crew had been stood down, she said.

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A reporter at the scene said the turn-off to Mosquito Point, a popular swimming spot, had been cordoned off. The rescue helicopter could earlier be seen flying back and forth along a section of the river.

Fire and Emergency NZ was also called to the scene but declined to comment as the incident was in the hands of police.

A helicopter has been sent from Palmerston North to help in the search. Photo / Zaryd Wilson
A helicopter has been sent from Palmerston North to help in the search. Photo / Zaryd Wilson