Australian police are searching for a 12-year-old child who was reportedly attacked by a crocodile while swimming.

The alert was raised on Tuesday night in Palumpa, a remote Northern Territory town about seven hours drive from Darwin.

Police said the child was last seen swimming in a creek and that “initial reports stated the child had been attacked by a crocodile”.

A search involving officers and locals has been launched.

“Local officers are on scene and our thoughts are with the family and the community,” said senior sergeant Erica Gibson.

“Officers are currently searching a large section of the creek via boat and we thank the community for their ongoing assistance.”

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There are more than 100,000 crocodiles – some as big as 6m (20ft) – in the Northern Territory, an area more than six times the size of the UK.

Fatal attacks on humans are relatively rare, however.