Texas officials investigating a potential child abuse case said 137 children and 46 women have been removed from a ranch that is home to a breakaway Mormon sect linked to jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.

Local media reports said sect leaders had earlier refused to let authorities search the compound but local prosecutor Allison Palmer said the situation has been 'defused.'

He said police were still conducting a search of the premises.

Investigators were looking for a young woman whose complaint sparked the raid in the first place.

Texas authorities descended on the ranch this week in response to allegations that a 50-year-old man there had married and fathered a child with an underage girl.

The ranch is a compound for the renegade Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a polygamist group led by Warren Jeffs until last year.

In November, Mr Jeffs was sentenced in a Utah court to 10 years to life in prison as an accomplice to rape for forcing a 14-year-old girl to marry her 19-year-old first cousin.

He is in jail in Arizona awaiting trial on similar charges for arranged marriages there.

Polygamy is outlawed everywhere in the United States but the male followers of such sects typically marry one woman officially and take the others as ‘spiritual wives’.

The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon faith is officially known, renounced polygamy more than a century ago and tries to distance itself from breakaway factions that still practice it.