Urgent hunt for missing trampers as heavy rain predicted

Jessica O'Connor (left) and Dion Reynolds, both aged 23, have not been heard from since entering Kahurangi National Park on May 9. Photo: NZ Herald
Jessica O'Connor (left) and Dion Reynolds, both aged 23, have not been heard from since entering Kahurangi National Park on May 9. Photo: NZ Herald
Searchers are urgently looking for signs of two trampers missing in the upper South Island before the weather takes a turn for the worse this afternoon.

A severe weather warning has been issued for Nelson west of Motueka with heavy rain expected overnight.

The area includes the Kahurangi National Park where Jessica O'Connor and Dion Reynolds have been missing for more than a week.

The 23-year-olds set out from Anatori on May 9 and were due back on May 14-15.

Police began searching on Tuesday with volunteers, the New Zealand Defence Force, Urban Search and Rescue and the fire service. A team from Alpine Cliff Rescue Mt Cook yesterday joined the search.

The search resumed this morning with weather conditions being monitored.

Settled weather has been a blessing so far, but police said yesterday incoming bad weather was likely to hamper the search.

Today's weather in the national park will be cloudy, with rain developing from midday and becoming heavy at times from the afternoon, according to MetService. Northerly winds are expected with gales in high places later before easing overnight.

A heavy rain warning is in place from 4pm, ending at 5am Monday.

Between 70-100mm of northerly rain is expected to accumulate over that time, with peak rates of 10-15mm an hour.

"Heavy rain may cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly. Surface flooding and slips are also possible and driving conditions may be hazardous," MetService warns.

O'Connor and Reynolds are experienced in the outdoors, and O'Connor, who works for Abel Tasman Kayaks, is said to know the area well.

The area is in dense bush, which has made searching difficult.

Police are asking for anyone who has been around the Anatori, Webb, Kokopu, Independent and Fraser rivers since May 8 who may have seen the pair to get in touch.

Anyone with information should contact police on 105 and quote event number P042228949.

Police will issue an update on the search today.

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