Migrant dies as Channel rescuers battle to save 40 crammed on to sinking boat
A migrant has died after being airlifted to hospital from a boat that started sinking while trying to cross the Channel, it has been reported.
French officials in Dunkirk told broadcaster BFM that one of around 40 migrants onboard had suffered a suspected heart attack.
A major rescue mission was launched after the vessel is believed to have begun taking on water as it headed for the UK on Thursday morning.
French and Belgian air and sea units launched searches at around 10am after a cargo ship reported seeing the boat in difficulty.
Crew spotted some people overboard off the coast of Dunkirk and an unconscious person was taken aboard the ship's lifeboat.
The casualty was transferred on to a French Navy vessel and then airlifted to a hospital in Calais by a Belgian helicopter, where they are thought to have suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest, French authorities said.
The Dunkirk prosecutor's office has opened an investigation for manslaughter, BFM reported.
Several others were also hoisted aboard the helicopter as the migrant boat was sinking, while more were rescued by nearby fishing boats.
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They were all transferred on to the French navy's Flamant patrol boat, which headed for the port of Dunkirk.
Others are thought to have succeeded in reaching British shores, with reports of a beach landing in Kent.
Kent Police said they were called to assist the Border Force and HM Coastguard following a report of suspected migrants in Ramsgate at about 11.30am on Thursday morning.
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Following days of bad weather in the Channel, lighter conditions have seen a flurry of crossing attempts.
Last week saw a record daily total when 482 migrants crossed on August 5 – 52 more than the previous record set on July 19.
Among those who have tried to make the perilous crossing were Rasoul Iran-Nejad and his wife Shiva Mohammad Panahi, who died along with their three children when their boat capsized on October 27 last year.
Their 15-month-old son Artin was reported missing following the tragedy and it was not until June this year that police confirmed a body found on the Norwegian coast was that of the young boy.
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