A search and rescue operation attempting to locate four people missing on Great Slave Lake headed into Monday night with no news on their whereabouts.
In a news release early on Monday afternoon, RCMP said a search had begun after four commercial fishers were reported overdue.
By 7:45pm on Monday, family members posting online said they had still received no word from the authorities. "We remain hopeful," the daughter of one of the missing men wrote.
Hundreds of residents offered prayers and messages of hope as news spread of the search.
It was not clear if search efforts would continue overnight. RCMP in the NWT, who ordinarily do not staff communications posts beyond office hours, did not immediately provide an update on Monday evening.
The four fishers had left Hay River's wharf early on Sunday morning, bound for Sulphur Point – about an hour and a half away, on the lake's south shore – to check their nets. The fishers were due to return "before night-time" on Sunday, police said.
With the weather getting colder, the group had been planning to wrap up for the season later this week, said the sister-in-law of one of the fishers – who asked for their names to be withheld as not all family members were yet informed of the situation.
A search party of fishers went out late on Sunday night to look for the four when they did not come back, but the searchers returned in the early hours of Monday without having sighted the overdue group. At this point, the sister-in-law said, police were informed.
By Monday lunchtime, RCMP confirmed an aerial search had begun with the help of the Joint Rescue Command Centre in Trenton and Yellowknife's 440 Squadron. A Canadian Coast Guard boat was assisting.
Police urged residents not to go out onto the water themselves, with strong winds on the lake throughout Monday.
"RCMP is urging community volunteers to not put themselves at risk, despite their good intentions to assist," the news release stated.
Police said an update will follow as more information becomes available.
Anyone who may have information about the fishers is asked to contact the Hay River RCMP at 874-1111.