Channel deaths: Harrowing mayday call from French coastguard after 27 killed

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A mayday call which has been released says: “Mayday relay, mayday relay, mayday relay. This is Gris-Nez emergency, Griz-Nez emergency, Gris-Nez emergency”

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Mayday call from coastguard alerts ships of migrants overboard

A mayday emergency call made by the French coastguard during the sinking of a boat in the English channel has emerged.

At least 27 people died when their fragile boat capsized near Calais on Wednesday, with seven women and three children among the dead.

In the mayday call obtained by Sky News, the coastguard can be heard putting out an emergency alert.

The radio operator says that 15 people are overboard.

The operator says: “Mayday relay, mayday relay, mayday relay. This is Gris-Nez emergency, Griz-Nez emergency, Gris-Nez emergency.

“Information number one: Mayday. 15 man overboard, approximately. 15 man overboard.

All that was left of the remains of the flimsy dinghy that sank in the Channel killing at least 27 migrants, when rescuers arrived
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Image:

Sky News)

“All ships in this area are requested to have a [unclear] lookout to proceed to this area to take contact and report any information to Gris-Nez emergency co-ordinating this operation.”

Regional manager of life boat association (SNSM) in Calais, Charles Devos, was among the first people at the scene.

He said he dragged six bodies from the sea including one woman who was pregnant.

A survivor is seen arriving in the Port of Calais
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Image:

Steve Reigate)

Mr Devos spoke of the traumatic and shocking scenes and said he could not remember such a tragedy.

He said he saw the blow-up boat had deflated but it is not known how.

Mr Devos described the boat as an inflatable, very light boat that was around 10m long and said it was “overwhelmed” with people.

Charles Devos was among the first people to arrive at the scene
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Image:

Twitter)

He likened the incident to The Titanic, seeing people ‘plunged’ in the water with no way of being rescued.

He said unfortunately they were only able to recover the dead people in the tragedy.

The dinghy, he said, was a very light inflatable, no more than 10m long.

Ahead of talks with Home Secretary Priti Patel, French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said the deaths of 27 people on Wednesday was an “absolute tragedy”.

Emergency vehicles arriving in Port of Calais
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Image:

Steve Reigate)

He blamed human trafficking gangs who promised people the “El Dorado of England” for a large fee.

The known victims of the tragedy were 17 men, seven women and three children, and all are Iraqi-Kurds or Somalians.

Two male survivors recovering from ‘severe hypothermia’ are an Iraqi-Kurd and a Somalian, said Mr Darmanin.

He earlier revealed a pregnant woman was also one of those who sadly drowned, in what is the biggest single loss of life in the Channel on record.

A group of people leaving France for the UK
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Image:

REUTERS)

It was indicated that the fragile dingy, which has been described as a floating death trap, had been hit by a container ship.

Mr Darmanin said the boat had “deflated like an inflatable garden pool” by the time rescuers arrived.

Boris Johnson called on France to agree to joint police patrols along the French Channel coast, while French politicians pointed the finger at UK authorities for failing to tackle the issue.

Pierre-Henri Dumont, the MP for Calais, rejected the Prime Minister’s proposal as a “crazy solution” that “will not change anything” along the vast shoreline.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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