| New Zealand News | Wednesday August 8 2012 17:39
Police are looking at bringing in more resources to search for three people missing off the coast of New Plymouth.
Two students from Spotswood College and a tutor are unaccounted for after they fell into the water while rock climbing at Paritutu Rock, off Back Beach.
Rescuers are hunting for the three who have been missing for more than two hours in rough seas.
Emergency services launched a dramatic rescue operation at Paritutu Rock after reports of multiple people falling into the water at about 1.20pm
Inspector Mike Coleman said an instructor and a group of 13 students had been climbing in the area when one person fell.
It was thought others had then fallen into the water, or jumped in to try to help.
Three people were still missing in the water, including two international students and the instructor, Mr Coleman said.
Search and rescue staff, local police and a rescue helicopter were looking for them but there were grave fears for their safety, he said.
The rescue helicopter had been used to help winch the remaining 10 people from Paritutu Rock.
Mr Coleman said the person who had fallen originally had been taken to hospital with injuries sustained landing on the rocks.
No other serious injuries were reported.
Forty police are involved in the search.
New Plymouth Police Senior Sergeant Robbie O'Keith says a helicopter, a plane, several fishing boats, a port boat and an inflatable boat are being used.
"We're looking at bringing in some additional resources ... but that's just something we'll keep assessing."
He says large swells are hampering the rescue effort.
"There are a number of islands and rocks that they could be holding on to, or sheltering in."
Senior Sergeant O'Keith says police will continue searching as long as they can.
At least one vessel was out on the water also searching the area, a police spokesman said.
The search and rescue operation was being coordinated through New Plymouth Search and Rescue, he said.
Photographer Rob Tucker, who was at the scene, said it was now raining and visibility was very poor.
Two search vessels were out on the water, including the harbour master, he said.
The cliff face where the incident happened was sheer, and sea swells of about two metres were pounding the area.
Police were scouring the water using binoculars, he said.