Several migrants drowned while trying to cross the Channel in an inflatable dinghy to reach Britain on Wednesday, French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said.
“Strong emotion in the face of the tragedy of several deaths due to the capsizing of a migrant boat in the English Channel,” Mr Darmanin said in a tweet, adding that he was heading there.
He did not say how many had died.
BFM TV reported five people had drowned. A police source told Reuters police could not yet confirm the figure, adding that they were waiting for doctors to confirm the toll.
The coast guard and two other sources said a rescue operation was still under way. The marinetraffic app, which shows the position of vessels in the area, showed three rescue boats and one helicopter at sea in one single location.
One fisherman, Nicolas Margolle, told Reuters he had seen two small dinghies on Wednesday, one with people onboard and another empty.
He said another fisherman had called the rescue operation after seeing an empty dinghy and 15 people floating motionless nearby, either unconscious or dead.
He confirmed there were more dinghies on Wednesday because the weather was good. “But it’s cold,” Mr Margolle added.
Early on Wednesday, Reuters reporters saw a group of more than 40 migrants head off towards Britain on a dinghy. Before they left, a police car flash its lights at them but then left for another part of the beach. – Reuters