08/07/2013 02:33 BST | Updated 08/07/2013 04:01 BST

Sea Search For Missing 14-Year-Old Girl Off Barry Island

A major search continued today for a missing 14-year-old girl who was last seen "in difficulty" in the sea.

Officers were called at 3.45pm yesterday to a report of concern for the girl, who was at Whitmore Bay, Barry Island, in south Wales.

barry island wales

Whitmore Bay, Barry Island

The girl, who is on holiday in the area with her family, was in the water with friends when she got into trouble around an hour before the alarm was raised, police said.

She is 5ft 7ins, of average build and with long black hair, and was last seen wearing a multi-coloured dress.

A huge search operation involving helicopters, coastguards, three RNLI boats and police was launched immediately.

Inspector Bob Nicholls of South Wales Police said the coastguard launched three boats to hunt for the girl, assisted by the police helicopter and a search and rescue helicopter, as well as people searching on foot.

He said: "She was on holiday in the area. Her parents are aware and with officers at the moment."

The coastguard from Portland, the South Wales Police helicopter and three RNLI lifeboats combed the sea and beach for the girl.

Steve Jones, rescue manager for HM Coastguard Swansea, said teams were "dumbfounded" they were not contacted immediately after the girl was seen in trouble.

He said: "The incident was reported to us at 15.54 but we believe she could have been in trouble in the water up to an hour before then.

"We had a report that a fisherman saw her.

"We are dumbfounded that something wasn't said to us earlier and are investigating but our main priority is the search, which is massive.

"We don't believe that she was that far out in the water. We are going on the assumption that she has not come out of the water. Normally, if she had come out then we would have found her by now.

"The police are checking the address where she was staying. They are speaking to her friends who were in the water with her.

"We are really concerned and ask that if anyone has any information that they contact us.

"If she is still in the water, as the time passes by, our concerns grow even deeper.

"The girl has to be somewhere," he said. "We just hope she is on land but are concentrating our efforts seawards."

Locals said the beach was safe when used with caution - due to the high tidal range of the water.

Plaid Cymru councillor Steffan Wiliam, who lives on Barry Island and represents the area for the Vale of Glamorgan Council, said: "Our stretch of coast has the world's second highest tidal range, second only to the Bay of Fundy.

"The main issue is that Whitmore Bay is a pocket shape. You have to be careful but it is generally very safe, particularly now we have lifeguards.

"If you swim between the two strips of flags you should be fine. You always have to be sensible on the beaches here.

"I am very concerned to hear that this girl has gone missing. I am the parent of three kids myself and it is awful to hear news like this."

Alun Cairns, MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, said coastguards in the area were well equipped and experienced.

Mr Cairns said: "The RNLI operation is exceptionally efficient at Barry.

"It has all of the latest equipment with significant investment there in recent years from the search equipment to the skills and experience of the operators.

"The coastguards are obviously doing all possible and the coordination between all concerned is operating as it should in the hope that we can find the missing girl.

"There are some concerns that this wasn't brought to their attention immediately but it is important that we focus our search before analysing other things."