Crew of trawlers save hundreds of migrants from freezing water after sinking in dinghys.

Read Time:3 Minute, 12 Second

By Andrew MacAskill

LONDON, (Reuters) – More than 30 migrants were rescued from the Channel by a crew of British fishermen. Some of them were clinging onto a rope and then they were taken to the vessel.

Raymond Strachan, captain of the trawler Arcturus said that his crew pulled 31 “screaming” migrants out of the water in freezing temperatures. This was after their dinghy started to sink in the middle Channel at the early hours of Wednesday.

Four people perished and many were saved by the inflatable dinghy. It was making the dangerous journey in the coldest part of the night, when temperatures were below freezing.

Some survivors are currently being treated at hospital, and a search operation is underway.

Strachan explained to Sky News that the scene was reminiscent of a Second World War movie. “There were people in water everywhere, screaming,” Strachan said. “I steamed toward the dinghy, and we secured the rope to the side. We were trying to pull them from the dinghy.

According to French and British media reports, the response is quite different from one year ago, when emergency coastguards in France and Britain spent hours trying to decide which boat to rescue, instead of racing to save those onboard.

After setting off from France in November last year, their dinghy burst and fell apart, at least 17 men, seven ladies and three children were killed. Five people remain missing while two others are alive.

‘PLEASE HELP’

Images taken Wednesday morning from the fishing boat show a partially inflated dinghy and a variety of people, some with life vests, hanging onto the side of it.

Strachan claimed that he was asleep when he was woken up by a member the trawler crew, who said “there are migrants along the boat”.

He said, “I stopped my boat and ran out. There were five hanging from my boat’s port side.”

Strachan stated that his crew spent nearly two hours rescuing people from the sea. He claimed that the people he saved were from Afghanistan, Senegal, Senegal, and India.

He said, “We took all their wet clothes off and gave them any clothing that would keep them warm.” To keep them warm, we put them in blankets and quilts to increase their body heat.

The temperatures have fallen below freezing in Britain for several days. The winter months are treacherous in Channel.

Utopia 56, a French charity, said that they raised the alarm with French coastguards early in the morning after receiving distress messages from the dinghy.

“Please help bro, please, please…please,” was the message from the sender.

In the background of the 22 second recording, you can hear the crying as the person says: “We’re in a boat and we have problems.” There are children and a family that lives in the boat. Water is coming in but we don’t have anything for it, for feeling safety.”

Wednesday’s tragedy is the worst since last year’s 27 deaths.

Le Monde newspaper reported that French police are looking into charging coastguard members with negligence for the tragedy.

Le Monde reported last month that multiple distress calls were made to British and French coastguards, before the boat was discovered in French waters in the wee hours of Nov. 24, last year.

Le Monde reported that French rescue boats weren’t initially dispatched to help, despite being called.

In one dispatch, when a man said he was in the water the French operator ­reportedly told him: “Yes, but you are in English waters.”

A request for comment from the British and French coastguards regarding this incident was not received.

According to the British government the root problem is criminal people smuggling gangs that charge migrants several thousand dollars per passage, but then put them on fragile boats without any regard for their safety.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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