Updated: 30/08/17 : 13:20:01
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World :: Concern growing for missing French girl (9)

Concern is growing over the fate of a nine-year-old girl who vanished while attending a wedding in eastern France.

The girl, MaŽlys De Araujo, was last seen in a children's room at about 03:00 on Sunday (01:00 GMT).

Extensive searches of the area around the wedding hall using a helicopter and police dogs have thus far failed to find a trace of the girl.

A kidnapping investigation has opened and police have issued an appeal for witnesses.

Police have already interviewed most of the 180 attendees at the wedding, which took place in a hall in Pont-de-Beauvoisin, IsŤre.

But the local prosecutor says they are also trying to speak to an additional 70 people who were attending two other social events at a community hall and bar nearby.

MaŽlys was at the wedding along with her mother - cousin of the bride - father, and older sister. They are said to live in the nearby department of Jura.

A guest, Grťgoire, told Le Parisien news site what had happened when guests realised the girl was missing.

"The DJ for the evening announced on the microphone that a child had disappeared. Suddenly, everyone started searching, in the main hall and outside.

"It was anguish. To see the disappearance of a nine-year-old, that's not nothing. We initially thought she must be asleep in a corner after a game of hide-and-seek. After an hour, as we'd found nothing, the police were alerted."

Grťgoire said he believed that a kidnapping had taken place. Reports also say police dogs failed to find any scent of the girl beyond the car park of the wedding hall, suggesting the girl did not run away.

Police, firefighters and volunteer firefighters have searched dense vegetation around the wedding hall, the nearby river Guiers and even sewers. The search continued on Tuesday and divers could be seen once again searching the river, about 500m (one-third of a mile) away.

The local prosecutor, Dietlind Baudoin, said she did not want to make hasty assumptions about what had happened, but a criminal explanation could not be ruled out.

Police have appealed for witnesses to come forward to help find MaŽlys, who they say is 130cm tall (4'3"), weighs 28kg (4st 6lb), has dark skin, brown eyes and hair, and was wearing a white sleeveless dress.