An eight-year-old boy believed to have fallen into a rain-swollen river while playing with friends has been named by police.

Ian Bell, from Sunnybrow, County Durham, is thought to have fallen into the River Wear, near Willington, County Durham, at around 7pm on Friday.

Police, the fire service, the RAF, mountain rescue teams and police divers have been carrying out a major search operation for the boy.

Janice Larnach, the owner of the Brown Trout pub, near where he is believed to have fallen in, said the boy's brother had told search teams he saw his sibling fall and grab on to a tree branch, which then snapped.

Neighbours have been helping out with the search and said his mother had recently given birth to her fourth child.

Wayne Coney, 28, told the Sunday Express: "They are a very nice family and the boy Ian has lots of friends. There's nothing around here for the kids to do, that's why they play on the river. Something has got to be done about it."

Locals said the area had experienced heavy rainfall over the last week, causing the River Wear to swell.

A Durham Police spokesman said: "Ian Thomas Bell, aged eight, was playing with his friends in the area of the Brown Trout pub, which is in close proximity to the River Wear, where it is thought he has fallen into the water.

"Since then, a major search for Ian has been ongoing with assistance from the fire and rescue service, mountain rescue, the Durham County Council civil contingency unit and a Northumbria Police marine unit, specialising in underwater search and rescue.

"Police are also keeping in regular contact with Ian's family and updating them as the search continues."