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14th Dec 2022

Four dead after major incident involving small migrant boat off the coast of Kent

Charlie Herbert

Suella Braverman has said her ‘heartfelt thoughts’ were with those involved

Four people have been confirmed dead after a small migrant boat ran into difficulties in the early hours in the English Channel near Kent.

A major rescue operation involving HM Coastguard, Navy, Border Force and police was launched in UK waters in freezing conditions after reports of an incident at about 03:40 GMT.

The coastguard, the French Navy and an air ambulance were sent to help, and a nearby fishing boat also helped with the rescue.

An air ambulance was sent to the scene in Kent early on Wednesday morning.

It has since been confirmed that four people have died, with a person close to the situation telling the BBC that 43 people had been saved, with more than 30 rescued from the water.

The search operation will continue throughout the day, and many more are feared dead given the freezing conditions of the water, a source said.

An Ashford hospital had been ‘told to clear the A&E’ as multiple casualties are expected, GB News claims.

Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeboats have been dispatched from Dover, Dungeness, Hastings and Ramsgate alongside coastguard rescue teams from Deal, Dungeness and Folkestone.

Throughout Tuesday night, temperatures dropped to 1C in Dover, with it likely to have been colder out at sea. A yellow weather warning for ice was in place across Kent at the time.

In a statement to the Commons on Wednesday, home secretary Suella Braverman said: “These are the days we dread.”

She added that her “heartfelt thoughts” were with those involved.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier expressed his sorrow at the “tragic loss of human life”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was “heartbreaking” that there have been more deaths in the Channel, and Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said she was “very saddened” to hear of the tragedy.

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesperson said: “HM Coastguard is currently coordinating a search and rescue response to an incident involving a small boat off Kent, working with the Navy, Border Force, Kent Police and other partners.

“We have sent Dover, Dungeness, Hastings and Ramsgate RNLI lifeboats and Deal, Dungeness and Folkestone coastguard rescue teams, along with the coastguard area commander.

“HM Coastguard helicopters from Lydd and Lee on Solent and one from the French Navy are involved. A fishing vessel in the area is also assisting in the rescue.

“South East Coast Ambulance and Kent Police are working with us and an air ambulance has been sent.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “We are aware of an incident in UK waters and all relevant agencies are supporting a coordinated response. Further details will be provided in due course.”

It comes just hours after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised to bring in new laws to tackle illegal immigration.

Among a raft of new measures unveiled to curb Channel crossings, he told MPs: “We have to stop the boats. And this government will do what must be done.”

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