Rescue teams hold “very grave” concerns for two men, possibly suffering hypothermia, after they were believed to have fled from police into inhospitable bush in the central North Island.
The men, in their 20s, abandoned a stolen car near the Desert Road before legging it into the Tongariro National Park on Saturday, police say.
But they are not equipped for the cold weather and during a 111 call with emergency teams on Sunday, the men reported being cold and numb.
Since then, they have not made contact with authorities but searchers yesterday afternoon found a camp fire, a shoe and two piles of clothing before a shirt and matching shoe were found separately.
Bay of Plenty operations manager Inspector Kevin Taylor says the discovery of discarded clothing is alarming.
“That’s consistent with them being hypothermic,” he said.
He said hypothermic people sometimes experienced euphoria or delirium in which they take their clothes off despite this being the worst thing they can do.
Today, 40 volunteers from as far away as Tauranga and Whanganui were searching for the men, starting from the camp fire, Mr Taylor said.
“The bush is exceptionally dense and this is a challenging search. The longer these young men remain in these conditions, the less likely it is that they will survive,” he said.
“However, today we still remain determined and hopeful that we will find them alive.”
A helicopter will not join the search due to poor weather. NZN