A mayday call by French coastguard requesting urgent help from “all ships” during yesterday’s Channel boat emergency has been obtained by Sky News.
Twenty-seven people – 17 men, seven women and two teenage boys and a girl – died while trying to cross to the UK in a flimsy boat, which capsized near Calais. Two people survived and were taken to hospital with hypothermia.
In the mayday call, the coastguard can be heard putting out an alert to all boats in the area.
:: Death in the Channel – watch a special programme on Sky News at 7pm
The radio operator gives co-ordinates and asks nearby vessels to attend, telling them that 15 people are in the water.
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.”
They add: “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.”
Charles Devos, regional manager of life boat association (SNSM) in Calais, was one among the first people at the scene.
He told Sky News that he dragged six bodies from the sea, including a pregnant woman, and seeing those drowned was “traumatic”.
“I can’t remember such a tragedy. It’s inexplicable,” he said.
“I saw the blow-up boat had really deflated. Was it a valve that came loose or did it hit an object? You never know but I don’t think it was a collision.”
And he said: “I think it happened due to overloading. Don’t forget, you think the sea is calm. The sea isn’t calm because it’s nearly always choppy.”
Mr Devos went on: “It’s very, very shocking. It was a bit like the film Titanic when you saw all these people plunged into the water, drowning, with no means of being able to be rescued.
“Unfortunately we were only able to recover the dead people.”
Describing the dinghy, he said: “It was an inflatable, very light boat that was around 10m long.”
He added: “It’s not the first time I’ve boarded this type of boat. It’s really light boats that are overwhelmed. The tragedy came about because the boat was overwhelmed. Boats that transport 20 people, we find them with around 50 people on them”.
The Kurdish government has confirmed to Sky News that Kurds were on the boat and it has appealed to the UK and EU for help stopping migrants leaving Iraq.
The two survivors were Somali and Iraqi.
Wednesday’s loss of life is the worst of the current migrant crisis, which has seen the number of people reaching the UK surge to more than 25,000 this year.
The UK insists France must do more to stop the crossings, while France says the UK should deter people from wanting to enter the country in the first place.
French interior minister Gerard Darmanin told RTL radio that migrants are “often attracted” to the UK jobs market and blamed human trafficking gangs who promise the “El Dorado of England”.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, told the Commons the deaths were a “dreadful shock” but “not a surprise”.
“It does need a Herculean effort and it will be impossible without close cooperation between all international partners and agencies,” she said.
Group try to steal Banksy mural from wall in Ukrainian town
A group of people tried to steal a Banksy mural from a battle-scarred wall in Ukraine, the governor of the region has said.
They managed to slice off a section of board and plaster bearing the image of a woman in a gas mask and dressing gown holding a fire extinguisher.
But they were spotted at the scene in the city of Hostomel, near Kyiv, and the mural was retrieved, Oleksiy Kuleba said in a statement.
He added that the image was still intact and the police were protecting it.
“These images are, after all, symbols of our struggle against the enemy… we’ll do everything to preserve these works of street art as a symbol of our victory,” he said.
Police shared images of the yellow wall in Hostomel, with had a large patch cut all the way back to the brickwork.
They said a number of people were arrested at the scene.
One shows a female gymnast balancing on a damaged building, while another depicts a man resembling Russian President Vladimir Putin being flipped during a judo match with a little boy, and another shows two children using a metal tank trap as a seesaw.
Banksy’s work can sell for millions of pounds on the art market.
Sajid Javid stepping down at next election
Sajid Javid has announced he will not stand in the next general election, saying being an MP had been “the privilege of [his] life”.
The former chancellor, who has held a number of senior roles in government alongside his Bromsgrove seat, is the most high-profile Tory MP to decide to step down at the next national vote, expected in 2024.
It comes amid reports the Conservative Party has told its MPs to decide about their future by Monday, with a number of younger members already confirming their exits.
He has also made the announcement on the day Labour secured an historic majority in the City of Chester by-election, with stark warnings that such a swing nationally could cause the Tories big problems the next time the country goes to the polls.
In a letter to his party chairman posted on Twitter, Mr Javid said it was “a decision I have wrestled with for some time”, but one that had been “accelerated” due to the party deadline.
“Being the local MP and serving in government has been the privilege of my life and I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to serve,” he said.
“I always sought to make decisions in the national interest, and in line with my values, and I can only hope my best was sufficient.”
He pledged the decision would not impact his work as an MP during his remaining time in office, adding: “I will of course continue to support my friend the prime minister and the people of Bromsgrove in any way I can.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “sad to see my good friend… stepping back from politics”, tweeting: “He’s been a proud champion of enterprise and opportunity during his time in government and on the backbenches – particularly for the people of Bromsgrove.”
Ending with a Star Wars quote, the PM added: “May the Force be with you, Saj.”
Mr Javid first came into parliament in 2010 at the start of the coalition government, and got his first job on the front bench in 2012 as economic secretary to the Treasury.
Over the past 12 years he has held some of the highest offices of state, including home secretary and chancellor of the Exchequer.
Mr Javid quit the latter role in 2020 – less than three months into the job – after the then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his senior adviser Dominic Cummings insisted he sack his aides and replace them with ones chosen by Downing Street.
He returned to Mr Johnson’s top team as health secretary in June 2021 after Matt Hancock resigned after being caught on CCTV kissing one of his aides and breaking his own COVID guidance.
But he was the first minister to resign in the wave of exits that led to Mr Johnson’s downfall over the summer, followed minutes later by then-Chancellor and now Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Mr Javid twice ran for the leadership of his party, but lost out to Mr Johnson and his successor, Liz Truss.
Blitz spirit in Kyiv as heat, light and water supplies are knocked out for days
The host of a conference in Kyiv alerted guests that air raid sirens were sounding, before assuring them they were safe and the event would carry on as planned.
It is a small example of how people across Ukraine are learning to cope with the unpredictability of war while carrying on with their lives in a test of endurance that has been likened – in its spirit – to what the UK lived through during the Blitz in the Second World War.
Stepping onto the stage at the Kyiv Security Forum, amid the air raid warning, was Vitali Klitschko, the city’s major.
He is overseeing support for residents at a crucial moment following several waves of Russian missile strikes against energy infrastructure since early October.
Last week, they knocked out the lights, heat and water supplies for much of the capital for up to two days – a brutal taste of how bad conditions could become, if more attacks cause even graver damage as winter bites.
Mr Klitschko said he wanted to speak bluntly about the risk, telling his audience that the people of Kyiv need to be prepared for various scenarios “even the worse one” – with power out for a prolonged period of time.
He offered this advice: “Stock up on water, non-perishable food and warm clothes. Also anyone with friends or relatives who live in rural areas away from the city should talk with them and be prepared to move out there if necessary, should conditions worsen.”
Asked afterwards by Sky News whether he was worried that Russia could freeze residents in the city to death with its missile strikes, he said the priority was to be prepared.
“The main goal of Russians, we know, they tried to destroy our infrastructure, critical infrastructure, they want to freeze us. But we have to be prepared for any case, also for [a] worst case scenario,” he said, speaking in English.
“That is why everyone in the city government has to know what we have to do in a critical situation, how we can help the people because it will be [a] catastrophe if the Russians totally destroyed our infrastructure. It will be [a] humanitarian catastrophe.”
At the same time, he underlined the determination of residents to endure: “It’s our cities, our homes. We don’t want to leave. The Russians try to bring depression on our citizens… I talked to our citizens. They are very angry and ready to stay and ready to fight.”
As for whether what Kyiv residents were having to endure could be likened to the Blitz spirit, the mayor said: “It is [a] pretty similar situation [to the] Second World War in London.”
That spirit of defiance was on display at a local food market, where shoppers bustled from stall to stall almost as normal – despite the knowledge Russia could launch a new missile strike at any moment.
Halyna and Georgii Bohun said they have not left Kyiv since the first day of the full-scale invasion on 24 February.
They likened their country’s experience – in terms of carrying on despite the dangers – to what people in the UK felt during the Blitz.
“We were thinking: if they survived after such bombardment, we will also survive,” Halyna, 60, a pharmacy worker, said.
Her husband even compared Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Winston Churchill.
“Sometimes they even use similar words, even their minds are similar,” said Georgii, 73, a retired energy industry worker.
The pair said they had enjoyed a lull in missile strikes over the past week, but were ready for worse to come.
“We are not afraid,” said Halyna. “What will be will be. But we are for freedom and only for our country’s victory.”
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