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Channel crossings: Victims ‘held hands in order not to drown’ after boat capsized on way to Britain

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A survivor of the Channel boat tragedy has described how the passengers held hands when the vessel capsized to try to save each other from drowning.

Migrant Mohammed Ibrahim Zada, 21, was on board the Britain-bound boat when it deflated and capsized. So far 27 bodies have been recovered.

Mr Zada, who hails from a Kurdish region of Iran, was one of two survivors of last Wednesday’s incident – the worst tragedy since the current crisis began.

He said 33 passengers climbed into the boat between 7pm and 8pm but that a faulty pump caused it to fill with water almost immediately.


“Some people started to pump air while others were emptying water from the boat,” he told Rudaw TV.

But their efforts were futile, he explained, and the boat “started to sink gradually”.

The remains of the boat that capsized in the Channel

Mr Zada said they managed to make contact with French and British police before the boat capsized but that authorities on either side disagreed about who should send help.

“We called the French police and asked them to help us,” he said.

“The pump was defected. We sent our location to the French police, and they said, you are inside British water.

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“So, we were inside the British water and called the British police for help, but they said call the French police. “

Bodies were found floating in French waters, a few miles from the coast, more than 12 hours later – prompting a French fisherman to send out a mayday signal.

Mr Zada said he and the other migrants held hands after they fell into the water “in order not to sink or drown”.

But when the sun started to rise, “the people couldn’t take it anymore”.

“They all gave up on their lives,” he said.

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Vigil held for Channel deaths

Mr Zada was treated for hypothermia in France. He explained the “only reason” he was trying to reach Britain was to earn money to pay for medical treatment for his sister in India.

When the boat had first started flooding, the passengers debated flagging down a ship they spotted in the Channel but decided not to as they wanted to reach Britain.

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New Calais arrivals reflect on dangers

Mr Zada identified the Rzgar family, from an autonomous Kuridsh region of Iraq, as being on the boat with him to reporters.

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Kazhal Rzgar, 46, her daughters Hadya, 22, and Hasta, seven, and sons Twana, 19, and Mubin, 16, are all thought to have drowned.

Just a week before the tragedy they had given a media interview in which they spoke of their dream of starting a new life in Britain.

Baran Nouri Mohammedameen didn't tell her fiancé she was about to board a boat to make the crossing until the last minute
Baran Nouri Mohammedameen didn’t tell her fiancé she was about to board a boat to make the crossing until the last minute

Among the dead publicly identified are a pregnant woman, children and a 24-year-old Kurdish woman from northern Iraq trying to reunite with her fiancé.

France is carrying out an organised crime investigation into the sinking.

The nation has committed to doubling the 123 officials currently in charge of fighting smugglers after the tragedy.

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