A migrant has been airlifted to hospital from the English Channel after a boat carrying around 40 people began to sink.
The boat is believed to have begun taking on water as it headed for the UK on Thursday morning.
The rescue operation, involving French and Belgian air and sea units, is ongoing, authorities in France say.
Searches started at around 10am after a cargo ship reported that a boat carrying around 40 people was in difficulty, with some people overboard, off the coast of Dunkirk.
An unconscious person taken aboard the cargo ship’s lifeboat and transferred onto a French Navy vessel was later airlifted to hospital in Calais.
He is believed to have suffered cardio-respiratory arrest and was evacuated aboard a Belgian Air Force helicopter, French authorities say.
Several others were also hoisted aboard the helicopter as the migrant boat was sinking while more were rescued by nearby fishing boats.
They were all transferred onto the French Navy’s Flamant patrol boat which headed for the port of Dunkirk.
Search and rescue operations remained under way in the Dover Strait, with a French Navy helicopter continuing to scour the area.
Following days of bad weather in the Dover Strait, lighter conditions on Thursday have seen a flurry of crossing attempts.
The latest bids to reach the UK come after French authorities intercepted at least 108 people trying to cross the Channel on Wednesday, with one person having to be airlifted to hospital in Dunkirk.
The dangerous sea journey from France – made by more than 10,000 people including children so far in 2021 – has claimed many lives in the past.
Among them were Rasoul Iran-Nejad and his wife Shiva Mohammad Panahi, who died along with their three children when their boat capsized on October 27 2020.
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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