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at least 30 people have drowned trying to cross the channel to the uk in an inflatable dinghy, french transport official has said.

Prime minister Boris Johnson this afternoon chaired a meeting of the government's Cobra emergency committee, bringing together senior ministers with security chiefs, to discuss the UK response to the tragedy.

He said he was "shocked, appalled and deeply saddened" by the deaths.

Franck Dhersin, deputy head of regional transport, said the number of dead had increased to 31 and that two people were still missing.

Speaking later, French prime minister Jean Castex described the incident as a "tragedy".

Fisherman Nicolas Margolle said he had seen two small dinghies, one with people onboard and another empty.

he said another fisherman had called rescuers after seeing an empty dinghy and 15 people motionless nearby.

a number of people are believed to have reached britain in small boats on wednesday, with people seen being brought ashore in dover by immigration officials.

The Dover Strait is the world's busiest shipping lane and more than 25,700 people have made the dangerous journey to the UK this year.

That figure is three times the total for 2020, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.

Conservative MP for Dover and Deal, Natalie Elphicke, said the incident was an "absolute tragedy" that underlined why boats needed to be stopped from entering the water.

It underlines why saving lives at sea starts by stopping the boats entering the water in the first place.

"As winter is approaching the seas will get rougher, the water colder, the risk of even more lives tragically being lost greater.

"That's why stopping these dangerous crossings is the humanitarian and right thing to do."

jean-marc puissesseau, the president and chairman of the ports of calais and boulogne, told bbc news : "what i know is that there were 50 people on this boat.

what i have heard is that there are 30 people who have died."

The mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, earlier said the death toll stood at 27 at 5pm UK time, but other French officials had warned they expected the total to rise.

A rescue operation is under way in the Channel by air and sea as French and British authorities search for anyone still in the water.

Home secretary Priti Patel confirmed his death to a House of Lords committee on 27 October.

The French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, is travelling to Calais.

A fishing boat sounded the alarm after spotting several people at sea off the coast of France.

"it's cold," margolle said.

They also claimed that seven other people had been reported missing – five of those in the last month.

The latest fatalities follow a string of other migrant deaths in the Channel in recent weeks, amid a record number of people attempting the dangerous crossing.

On 11 November, a total of 1,185 people arrived in England by boat, the most in a single day.

At least 27 migrants headed for the UK have drowned in the English Channel near Calais after their boat sank.

He will chair an emergency Cobra meeting this evening on the issue.

Mr Johnson said the deaths were a "disaster", adding that it was vital to "break" the people trafficking gangs which, he said, were "literally getting away with murder".

"My thoughts are with the many missing and injured, victims of criminal smugglers who exploit their distress and injury," he said.

It comes amid record numbers of migrants making the crossing from France to the UK.

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"A search and rescue operation is under way off the coast of Calais ... We think several people have died as their vessel sank," a police source told Reuters on Wednesday afternoon.

"We want to stop people from drowning at sea, only yesterday there was a loss of life," she told the group of peers.

Mr Thomas-Symonds said that the disaster should act as "the most tragic of wake-up calls to redouble our efforts to make sure that people are not on the water in these terrible makeshift boats, risking their lives".

"We have given the Home Office until 29 November to respond to our legal challenge.

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