Dozens of people were found dead on Wednesday in the English Channel — the waters between France and the UK — after their inflatable dinghy capsized, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.
At least 27 bodies were recovered and 26 people were found alive, according to Franck Dhersin, mayor of the French district of Teteghem and vice president of transport for the northern France region.
“This is no doubt the worst accident involving migrants trying to make it to Britain,” he told Reuters news agency.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Missing Migrants Project, it was the deadliest migrant drowning incident in the English Channel since it began collection data in 2014.
The incident ocurred near the French coastal cities of Calais and Dunkirk.
A rescue operation was still underway, after local fishermen spotted the an empty small dinghy and with bodies on the water.
Two helicopters and three police or rescue boats were at the scene, local authorities said.
PM Johnson vows to ‘demolish’ human traffickers
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “shocked and appalled” by the deaths of the migrants on the English Channel.
“My thoughts and sympathies are the victims and their families and it is in an appalling thing that they have suffered. But this disaster underscores how dangerous it is to cross the Channel in this way,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the UK should “use every power that we can, we leave no stone unturned, to demolish the business proposition of the human traffickers and the gangsters.”
“We have to work with our French friends, with our European partners. I say to our partners across the Channel, now is the time for us all to work together to do everything we can to break these gangs who are literally getting away with murder,” he said.
French Prime Minister Gerard Darmarin said he would travel to the scene. “We cannot say enough about the criminal nature of the smugglers who organize these crossings,” Darmarin wrote in a tweet.
The English Channel is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The currents on the water are strong, which makes the seemingly short voyage rather dangerous.
In 2019, 39 migrants from Vietnam died inside a refrigerated truck while crossing from Belgium to the UK over ferry, in what was the worst-accident to occur between the European mainland and the UK.
jcg/aw (Reuters, AFP, AP)