A British woman has been shot in front of her family while they were on holiday in Brazil, local media reported.

The incident occurred in Angra dos Reis, along the Costa Verde, about 150km from Rio de Janeiro, on Sunday (6 August).

The woman, identified as 46-year-old Eloise Dixon, was hit twice in the abdomen when the car she and her family were travelling in was fired upon. Her husband and three children were not injured.

Dixon – who, according to her Facebook page, is from Kent – was taken to the Japuiba General Hospital, where she underwent surgery.

Police officer Bruno Gilaberte said the family was looking to buy bottled water when armed bandits carried out the attack.

It is believed the incident occurred as the car approached the entrance of a favela, or slum. Armed men told the family to get out of the car before they started shooting.

"This whole confusion seems to have happened partly because of the language barrier," Gilaberte said.

"They ended up driving towards the Água Santa community where they were challenged by criminals. Because they didn't understand the order they received to leave the area, they just carried on and were shot at."

As the family was looking for water to buy, they were directed to the Água Santa community, an area where traffickers from the Terceiro Comando Puro, Pure Third Command, operate, news site Odia reported.

Gilaberte said the British Consulate was investigating the case.

A UK Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are in touch with the local authorities in Angra dos Reis, Brazil, following reports of the shooting of a British national."

Terceiro Comando Puro is a criminal organisation operating in Rio de Janeiro. It is believed to have split from the Red Command prison gang in the 1980s and is regarded as the third most powerful street gang in Rio, according to the InSight Crime foundation.