Neighbours on the quiet former council estate of Bryn-y-Gog, from where missing five-year-old April Jones was taken, are in shock.
Parents Coral, 40, and Paul, 43, were described as "stunned and devastated" by neighbours struggling with the same emotions.
"The general feeling is one of disbelief, nobody can take it on board," said Mathew Harris, 22, who lives on the estate.
Surrounded on three sides by tree-covered hills, at the centre of the small estate is a series of open greens used by local children. As on most days, unattended bicycles and balls litter the large grass areas safe from thieves on the close-knit estate.
"I was born and grew up on this estate and remember what it was like as a kid. Everyone played with everyone else," Mr Harris said.
"It's the same today. Kids play out together and everyone looks after everyone else. Somebody said that this estate once won an award as the safest in Powys.
"I can believe that. Every new family that comes to live here says what a great place it is to bring up kids. They can run free outside, riding bikes or playing football, without any trouble. What happened is unbelievable. Paul and Coral are loving parents and everyone is devastated for them."
Often described as a quiet market town, Machynlleth has a population of about 2,000 people. Its close proximity to both the countryside and the coast is a major attraction for tourists, who play a key role in the town's economy.
A picture of April will be featured on digital billboards across the UK with a message urging anyone with information to call the Child Rescue Alert helpline on 0300 2000 333 or the charity Missing People in confidence on 116 000.
Martin Houghton-Brown, the charity's chief executive, said: "Whilst abduction is very rare, when it happens, everyone must work together - the police, charities and the media. This digital billboard campaign is just one strand of that partnership. We sincerely hope that April is found safe and well very soon."