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British Coastguard omissions ahead of migrant drowning disaster in Channel

AAn overworked British Coastguard team working up to 20 hours a day made mistakes in the search and rescue operation following the mass drowning tragedy in the English Channel a year ago, a source said pleasemynews.

As of November 24, 2021, at least 27 people were killed and five bodies are still missing.

It took the British and French coastguards 12 hours to respond after the first distress call, with authorities arguing over who was responsible. By the time rescue ships and planes arrived at the scene, all but two of the passengers had drowned and died as a result of the blast.

Speaking for the first time about the conditions leading up to the events a year ago, a source from HM Coastguard said staff were working particularly long shifts, often without a break, and were overworked.

“Nobody comes to work with the intention of letting people die, but mistakes are made in extremely difficult circumstances,” the source said.

“Yes, 27 people died, but more than 27,000 people made it through. I would assume a survival rate of 0.1 percent. We will never be able to save everyone – no rescue service in the world can claim that.

“We sometimes had 20-hour days — really long periods with no breaks. Everyone was tired and frustrated. You can see people were restless and snapping at each other.

“You have to make quick decisions and yes, of course mistakes are made when you’re working under that kind of pressure.”

The revelations came as charity activists warned it was only a matter of time before there were similar deaths in the canal unless the government put in place safer routes.

Call recordings released to lawyers by French authorities as part of the ongoing investigation revealed that the first emergency call to the French Coast Guard was logged just before 2:15 am. The boat capsized at around 3:15 a.m.

Shortly thereafter, at 3:30 a.m., a passenger reported that part of the group was in the water. French authorities replied: “Yes, but you are in English waters, sir.”

Those on board made more than 20 emergency calls between 3:40 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. at sunrise. Around 2 p.m., emergency services arrived at the scene and all but two of the group had drowned or died as a result of the blast.

During the night, the British coastguard, which is responsible for logging distress calls and coordinating search and rescue operations in the Channel, continued to deny that the dinghy was in British waters and repeatedly urged passengers to telephone the French coastguard . Records from France indicate the boat entered British waters at 2:30 a.m.

On the night of November 24, 2021, pleasemynews 10 Coastguards were in the control room at Dover handling calls.

A maritime tactical commander was in charge, and search mission coordinators deciphered small boat locations, tides, and weather conditions.

At around 2:45 a.m., an exchange of emails between the French and British authorities revealed that the British coastguard appeared to be attempting to phone one of the passengers but received a French dial tone. They are said to have concluded that the boat was not their responsibility as it was likely still in French waters.

Steven Martin of Channel Rescue, a charity that monitors maritime activity, followed the incident as it unfolded and received screenshots of people aboard the sinking dinghy, many of whom shared their live location on WhatsApp to show that they were in British waters.

Mr Martin is now involved in the ongoing investigation into the marine casualty and has provided lawyers with extensive evidence to show that the French and British coastguards were aware of the Mayday calls, but there was a 12 hour time lag between the first distress call and a rescue ship arrives at the crime scene.

“It was incredibly depressing to see what was going on and see how nobody was responding,” he said. “We were like, ‘What the hell is going on here? How were we notified that there were people in the water but no surgery was initiated?’

“She [the French and British coastguards] I shouldn’t have argued about who answers when clearly people are drowning. It still makes me angry – a year later.”

“There will no doubt be another mass casualty event in the English Channel,” added Mr Martin. “Tragedies like this are a ‘when’ question, not a ‘if’ question. Incidents will continue to occur unless this government acts to create safe passages. We need a major change in how this is handled.”

Search and rescue expert Matthew Schanck said capacity and unsuitable vessels are the main issues that need to be addressed to allow the UK Coastguard to work more effectively.

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