Four people, including two children, have died after the small boat in which they had set out from France to try and reach the United Kingdom capsized in the English Channel, according to French officials.
One man drowned when the boat sank on Tuesday morning, while a woman and two children aged five and eight died after they were pulled from the water alive with 14 other people, the local authority of the Nord department said. There are fears some people may still be missing.
Some of those rescued, including the two children, had gone into cardiac arrest after being plucked from the water, while others, including more children, suffered hypothermia.
“It seems that one person, who might be an infant, is still missing,” official Herve Tourmente told journalists in Loon-Plage near Dunkirk , saying stormy conditions had made the attempted crossing especially perilous.
A passing English vessel reported that the boat was in trouble, triggering a large search and rescue operation involving six vessels with aerial support.
An investigation into the cause of the sinking was opened by the Dunkirk prosecutor.
A growing number of people seeking a better future have tried to reach the UK across the perilous and busy shipping lane in recent months, with four deaths recorded in 2019 and seven so far this year.
In September, French authorities said they had intercepted more than 1,300 people, including a handful who had attempted to swim the 30-odd kilometres (18.6 miles) across the Channel.