Three bodies recovered from Manawatū River in one day, including missing refugee mother

People are being urged not to swim at Ahimate reserve on the Manawatu River after four people drowned in the area in the past week.

Palmerston North City Council and the police made the plea on a Facebook post on Sunday evening.

"Just like all of you, we're devastated to hear about the drownings at our river beach at Ahimate Reserve over the past week. For now, both Police and us here at Council are asking you all to not swim at Ahimate," the post said. 

Three bodies were recovered from Manawatū River on Sunday after two separate incidents on the waterway in recent days.

Police announced at about 8:45pm on Sunday night that two bodies had been recovered following reports at 5:30pm that two men who went swimming in the river near Awapuni were missing. Their bodies were found by searchers a short time later at a nearby location.

"Police extends its condolences to the men’s families and loved ones," a spokesperson said. "Police are making enquires in relation to the deaths on behalf of the coroner, who will release their findings in due course."

Just over an hour later, at 10pm on Sunday, police said another body had been recovered, thought to be one of two swimmers who went missing on the river on December 29. 

An 11-year-old girl, Blae Ler Paw, got into trouble swimming on Wednesday and Mu Mu, a mother in her twenties, went in after her, but both failed to resurface.

The pair are both members of the Karen Refugee community and arrived in New Zealand as refugees from Myanmar.

The 11-year-old girl's body was found on Friday, while police believe the body found on Sunday to be the older woman.

"Police extends its condolences to the woman’s family and loved ones."

Palmerston North City Council said a rahui remains in place along the stretch of the river, and  signs asking people to avoid swimming will be installed.

"We want you all to be safe and your loved ones to have you at home. Please head to one of our swimming facilities or one of the beaches instead.

"Our thoughts are with all the families and friends of those who have died. And, we also want to say a huge thank you to Police, rescue teams and everyone else involved in the searches.

"Thank you so very much," the council posted on Facebook.

A Givealittle has been set up to help the families of the pair. An update on Sunday night thanked people for their "kindness". They also said their thoughts were with the others who went missing on the river on Sunday.