Franck Dhersin, the mayor of Teteghem, told the television channel France 3 dozens of people had died, adding that a further 26 people had been rescued.
“24 dead bodies have been taken out of the water as well as 26 people who were still alive,” he was quoted as saying.
A French coastguard official said on Wednesday afternoon that a rescue operation was underway off the coast of Calais, after a fishing boat sounded the alarm.
Responding to the fatalities, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who is heading to the scene, said: “Strong emotion in the face of the tragedy of numerous deaths due to the capsizing of a migrant boat in the English Channel.”
Meanwhile, French prime minister Jean Castex said: “My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and injury,” he said.
The latest deaths come after a rise in Channel crossings this year. More than 25,700 people have made the dangerous journey from France to the UK so far in 2021, more than three times higher than the total in 2020.
Disaster a ‘tragedy’, says French prime minister
The French prime minister has said his thoughts are with those who lost their lives in the Channel earlier this afternoon.
“The shipwreck in the English Channel is a tragedy. My thoughts go out to the many who have died or been injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and poverty,” he said.
Rory Sullivan24 November 2021 17:10
French interior minister confirms ‘numerous deaths’
The French interior minister Gerald Darmanin has confirmed the tragedy that took place in the Channel today.
“Strong emotions in light of the tragedy of the many dead due to the shipwreck of a boat of migrants in the English Channel,” he tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.
“We can never say enough of the criminal nature of smugglers who organise these crossing. I’m going to the scene.”
Rory Sullivan24 November 2021 17:07
At least 24 migrants dead after boat capsizes in Channel
Dozens of migrants have died after an inflatable dinghy capsized off the coast of France on Wednesday, a local mayor has said.
Franck Dhersin, the mayor of Teteghem, told the television channel France 3 that 24 people had died and that 26 others had been rescued.
Rory Sullivan24 November 2021 17:01
Good afternoon and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of today’s tragedy in the Channel. At least 24 migrants are thought to have died after their dinghy capsized off the coast of France.
Rory Sullivan24 November 2021 16:59