Five people were found dead Sunday in another maritime drama involving migrants trying to cross the dangerous English Channel from northern France, authorities said.
The deaths and the rescue of dozens of other people after a migrant boat ran into difficulties in the dark and winter cold again highlighted the perils of migrant crossings from France to Britain.
Drownings, sinkings and other sometimes deadly incidents, often aboard crowded and flimsy boats, are frequent in the busy sea lane. Winter air temperatures have dropped below freezing and the sea is bitterly cold, too.
The boat carrying migrants was spotted early Sunday in difficulty off a beach in the French coastal village of Wimereux, according to the French maritime authorities for the English Channel and North Sea.
The five dead were recovered from the sea or found washed up along the beach, maritime authorities said in a statement. A French navy helicopter and several rescue vessels were involved in the search.
Rescue services provided help to more than 30 other migrants who made it back to shore from the capsized boat, authorities said.
They included a person found unconscious on the beach and hospitalized in critical condition in the French port of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Another person was treated for severe hypothermia.The water was just seven degrees above freezing, according to Jacques Billant, top administrator for the northern Pas-de-Calais region. A person can expect to survive for no longer than 10 minutes in seas that cold, he said.
“Week after week, we see overloaded boats, with an average of 50 migrants aboard” and no lifejackets, he said.
Billant said the five dead were Syrians.
Maritime authorities said multiple French vessels are operating off the northern coast, because conditions in the Channel have improved after a spell of bad weather, making crossing attempts more likely.
Authorities said other coastal surveillance and rescue operations are underway but gave no immediate details.
It is “a particularly dangerous sector, particularly in the middle of winter for precarious and overloaded boats,” maritime authorities warned in their statement. (ABC)