LONDON (Reuters): A small boat carrying migrants has sunk off the southeastern coast of England, killing some of those on board, the BBC reported on Wednesday.
Britain’s government and emergency officials confirmed that an incident was ongoing, with lifeboats, helicopters and rescue teams working with the French and British navies to respond to an event that occurred in freezing conditions at around 3:40 a.m.
“It’s understood there have been fatalities after a migrant boat sank in the Channel. This has not yet been confirmed by the authorities,” the BBC’s local reporter said on Twitter.
Temperatures have plunged across Britain in the last week, bringing snow to some parts of the country. The temperature was logged at 2 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit) in a nearby town.
“We are aware of an incident in UK waters and all relevant agencies are supporting a coordinated response,” a spokesperson for the government said. “Further details will be provided in due course.”
Small boats, often inflatable dinghies, travel regularly across the Channel carrying migrants from France to Britain.
More than 40,000 people, a record number, have arrived via the perilous journey this year, reigniting tensions between Britain and France.
Data compiled by the Missing Migrants Project showed 205 migrants had been recorded dead or missing in the English Channel since 2014.
In the worst recorded accident of its kind, 27 people died while attempting to cross the sea in an inflatable dinghy in November 2021.
The new incident comes a day after British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled plans to toughen the laws to stop the small boats crossing the Channel, including legislation to prevent migrants from remaining in the country.
Sunak said the government was sending a message that “enough is enough” and people were “right to feel angry” about repeated failures to tackle the issue.