PARIS (Reuters) – At least four people have died after a boat carrying around 20 migrants capsized off Loon-Plage near Dunkirk in northern France, the local prefecture said on Tuesday.
“This is the heaviest toll we have ever had in the north,” Hervé Tourmente, the top state official in Dunkirk, told French radio France Bleu Nord.
A man, a woman and two children aged 8 and 5 were found dead, according to what the prefecture said is still a provisional toll. Fifteen other people were rescued, including eight suffering from hypothermia and two in cardiac arrest, local firefighters said earlier Tuesday.
A major search operation was launched after the boat capsized in the morning. Emergency and medical teams went to the scene, as well as a French navy helicopter.
“My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives in the Channel today,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter.
“We have offered our full support to the French authorities in their investigation into this terrible incident and will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs that prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys.
Several thousand migrants attempted the dangerous Channel crossing this year, often paying smugglers to help them cross one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in overloaded rubber dinghies.
Britain has repeatedly called on the government of President Emmanuel Macron to do more to prevent migrants from leaving France.