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Four dead after small boat sinks in English Channel

Major search and rescue operation under way as vessel runs into difficulty in freezing conditions overnight
A Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeboat at Dungeness on the southeast coast of England on 9 December 2022 (AFP/File photo)
A Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboat at Dungeness on the southeast coast of England on 9 December 2022 (AFP)

Four people have died after a small boat sunk off the southeastern coast of England early on Wednesday. 

The UK government confirmed the deaths after a major search and rescue operation was launched in the English Channel, following reports of a boat running into difficulties off the coast of Kent at 03:40 GMT in freezing weather conditions. 

A reporter for the BBC said that 43 people had been saved, 30 of whom were rescued from the water, citing sources close to the situation.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said that it was "seeking further information from the UK authorities". 

“We have sent Dover, Dungeness, Hastings and Ramsgate RNLI lifeboats and Deal, Dungeness and Folkestone coastguard rescue teams, along with the coastguard area commander,” the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency said in a statement. 

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“HM Coastguard will continue to safeguard life around the seas and coastal areas of the UK, working with search and rescue resources in the area. If a vessel needs search and rescue assistance, HM Coastguard will continue to respond to all those in need.”

It added that it had sent helicopters and was working with the French navy, the UK Border Agency, and Kent’s police and ambulance services. 

French authorities confirmed to AFP that a helicopter had also been sent from northern France to help the British coastguard and that a local fishing boat had also been involved in the rescue operation. 

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman confirmed the deaths of the four people attempting to cross the channel and sent her "deepest sympathies for everyone affected" by the incident. 

"Crossing the Channel in unseaworthy vessels is a lethally dangerous endeavour," Braverman told parliament.

"It is for this reason, above all, that we are working so hard to destroy the business model of the people smugglers, evil, organised criminals who treat human beings as cargo.”

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