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Asylum seeker airlifted to hospital amid search operation in English Channel after sinking near Dunkirk

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A suspected asylum seeker has been flown to hospital from the English Channel after a boat carrying around 40 people began to sink.

The boat is believed to have started taking on water as it headed for the UK this morning (Thursday).

The sinking happened off Dunkirk. Library picture: Sam Lennon
The sinking happened off Dunkirk. Library picture: Sam Lennon

The rescue operation, involving French and Belgian air and sea units, was ongoing this afternoon, authorities in France said.

Other asylum seekers were thought to have succeeded in reaching British shores today, with reports of a beach landing in Kent.

Searches started at around 10am after a cargo ship reported that a boat carrying around 40 people was in difficulty, with some people overboard, off the coast of Dunkirk.

An unconscious person taken aboard the cargo ship’s lifeboat and transferred on to a French Navy vessel was later airlifted to hospital in Calais.

He is believed to have suffered cardio-respiratory arrest and was evacuated aboard a Belgian Air Force helicopter, French authorities say.

One of the many dinghies abandoned on the beach in Kent following crossings. Library picture: Susan Pilcher
One of the many dinghies abandoned on the beach in Kent following crossings. Library picture: Susan Pilcher

Several others were also hoisted aboard the helicopter as the migrant boat was sinking, while more were rescued by nearby fishing boats.

They were all transferred on to the French Navy’s Flamant patrol boat, which headed for the port of Dunkirk.

Search and rescue operations remained underway in the Dover Strait today, with a French Navy helicopter continuing to scour the area.

Details have come from France’s Channel and North Sea maritime authority Préfecture maritime de la Manche et de la mer du Nord.

Following days of bad weather in the Dover Strait, lighter conditions today have seen a flurry of crossing attempts.

Rescued asylum seekers are usually brought in to Dover. Library picture courtesy of Chris Johnson
Rescued asylum seekers are usually brought in to Dover. Library picture courtesy of Chris Johnson

About a dozen were seen in one small vessel today heading for Ramsgate.

The latest bids to reach the UK come after French authorities intercepted at least 108 people trying to cross the Channel yesterday, with one person having to be airlifted to hospital in Dunkirk.

On Wednesday last week almost 500 reached the UK from France, a record for one day.

The dangerous sea journey from France – made by more than 10,000 people including children so far in 2021 – has claimed many lives in the past.

Among them were Rasoul Iran-Nejad and his wife Shiva Mohammad Panahi, who died along with their three children when their boat capsized on October 27 lasr year.

Their 15-month-old son Artin was reported missing following the tragedy and it was not until June this year that police confirmed a body found on the Norwegian coast was that of the young boy.

Data compiled by the PA news agency shows the tally for successful crossings this year now stands at more than 10,700 people, despite the dangers involved in the journey.

Crossings in 2021 eclipsed last year’s annual total of 8,417 in July, PA data shows.

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

Deal Dover Romney Marsh Thanet KentOnline reporter



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