At least 27 people drowned Sunday when an inflatable migrant boat bound for the UK sank off the coast of France, French maritime officials said.
The migrant boat disappeared Sunday from radar south of the tiny Brittany town of St. Nazaire, possibly having lost power, officials said.
Before it sank, around 15 people were thrown into the sea, said Dominique Mato, an information officer with France’s ANSV police rescue unit.
The fire service immediately reached the scene and rescued 22 people, including three children, Mato said.
At least 27 people died and the search continues for more survivors, Mato said. The migrants had tried to reach England via the English Channel, he said.
France’s navy launched a search-and-rescue operation for the stricken vessel, which is believed to have been carrying 80 people.
“There was some alarm, the alarm spread very fast to the coastguard and the navy and our colleagues are now in the process of looking for the boat and the migrants,” Mato said.
Rescuers are still looking for survivors, “pursuing any sunken ship, for survivors,” he said.
There are around 600 migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe each day, in dangerous conditions, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Among them are asylum seekers and other migrants, who try to reach Europe by boat from North Africa, or sub-Saharan African countries.
Adults and children are among those hoping to make it into the EU with them.
The number of migrants and refugees who have died trying to cross the Mediterranean during the year to May is up to 3,593, up 16 percent on the same period last year, according to figures from the IOM.
Only last week, a search-and-rescue operation rescued 26 migrants, including four children, who had drifted in the Mediterranean in a wooden boat for more than 24 hours.
“It’s extremely rare that we enter into the third week of July and we still haven’t seen a single single drowning death in the Mediterranean. That says it all,” said Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM spokesman.