Police and "hundreds" of local residents are searching for a missing five-year-old girl who vanished while playing with friends near her home.

April Jones was last seen getting into a light coloured van which drove off in the mid Wales town of Machynlleth at 7.30pm on Monday.

Dyfed-Powys Police said they are becoming "increasingly concerned" for the missing youngster's safety and have a number of officers and specialist teams involved in the investigation. Hundreds of locals are said to have joined the hunt for April on Monday evening and are expected to continue looking overnight.

A force spokesman said: "Police are increasingly concerned for the whereabouts of a five year girl from Machynlleth. April Jones was last seen playing with her friend on their bikes near to garages in the town at around 7.30pm yesterday evening. April was seen getting into a light coloured van or van sized vehicle which then drove off. Police ask anyone with any information to call them on 101."

Up to 200 people congregated at Machynlleth Leisure Centre on Monday to join the search for the missing girl, according to reports.

Local restaurant owner Razul Islam said a large majority of the town, which has a population of 2,000, was out in force searching for the five-year-old.

"There are hundreds of people out looking for her," Mr Islam told Sky News. "It is such a small town and nearly everyone is out looking for her - I'm shocked that it has happened in a town like this."

The businessman said he expected the search to continue throughout the night. "The police and locals are patrolling on foot, everyone is just looking everywhere," he added.

Chris Dudley, who works at the Skinners Arms on Penrallt Street, said the pub was empty with many of the locals in the town looking for the little girl. He said: "All the locals are looking for her in this area - the cemeteries, the golf field, playing field, everywhere you can think of. Police are still looking."

Meanwhile, petrol station owner Nerys Zjalic said she had reopened the garage to help with the search. Ms Zjalic, who runs Reads Garage, told ITV Wales: "We'll stay open all night if we have to. We heard about the search through social networking sites and there was a lot of people going past our house."