A mother and daughter from North Carolina who went missing for four days while hiking in a remote part of New Zealand have been found after they made "help" signs out of sticks.

Carolyn Lloyd, 45, and her 22-year-old daughter Rachel survived by huddling for warmth and rationing their limited supplies after getting lost in Tararua Forest Park near the southern tip of the country's North Island. They were discovered safe on Saturday 30 April but were airlifted to hospital, suffering from the effects of hunger and dehydration.

New Zealand authorities found the Lloyds after they made two signs and arrows pointing out their location in clearings in the forest. They were spotted by a helicopter pilot participating in the search.

On Facebook, Rachel's uncle Bob Schumacher wrote a post explaining that the pair were a "little weak" but otherwise fine. "Our prayers have been answered," he said. "My sister and niece have been found alive."

The duo, natives of Charlotte in North Carolina, were on a one-day hike on the forest's Kapakapanui track. They are believed to have got lost in a particularly challenging area of the park, and their rental car was found two days after their hotel reported them missing. As well as helicopters, authorities used dog teams and ATVs in the search.

Rachel, who was later whisked into emergency care, told Sky News that she had believed she was going to die when the helicopter appeared overhead. "At this point we kind of knew I was failing health and I was on the verge of dying," she said. "We were even discussing going through my dying wishes which I'm sure wasn't easy for her."

Police Sgt Anthony Harmer told WSOC-TV: "One thing about the New Zealand bush is it often takes people unaware. He added: "It's a little bit steeper and little bit more rugged than a lot of tourists expect or plan for."

The two were not inexperienced hikers, having tackled the notorious Appalachian Trail in the States, and Harmer told press that "they gave themselves the best chance possible" after getting lost. The Kapakapanui trail is known to be quite steep and deceptively difficult in parts, he said, adding: "There are a couple of places where people can make mistakes and end up off the track."