Survivor of Channel tragedy: We held hands to try and stop each other drowning

30 November 2021, 08:36 | Updated: 30 November 2021, 09:35

At least 27 people died when their small boat sank in the English Channel
At least 27 people died when their small boat sank in the English Channel. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

A survivor of last week's tragedy in the English Channel in which at least 27 people died has recalled holding hands with other migrants in an attempt to stop one another from drowning.

Mohammed Ibrahim Zada, from the Kurdish area of Iran, said their boat began to deflate and fill with water but, to begin with, he and around 32 other passengers were not too worried and remained focussed on reaching England.

"At first water started to flow into the boat and the rear side by the motor," recalled the 21-year-old, who is one of two survivors from the incident.

"We were emptying the water.

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"We saw a ship and said 'let's go towards them' but the people on the boat said 'no, we shouldn't go, this boat must reach Britain tonight'."

He said they continued moving and the ships "started to disappear" - and soon afterwards the boat started to deflate.

"There was a pump inside the boat so some people started to pump air while others were emptying water from the boat," he said.

But he said eventually the passengers lost hope and gave up "when we started to sink gradually".

"The waves started to push us towards France and the boat sunk and all the people fell in the water," he said.

"We started to hold each others' hands.

"Each person held the hands of the next person in order not to sink or drown in the water.

"But with the sun rise early in the morning the people couldn't take it anymore and they all gave up on their lives."

Mr Zada also reportedly said they made contact with both French and British authorities before the boat sank - but both refused to take responsibility, with France saying the boat was in British waters and Britain telling passengers to call the French police.

It was not until more than 12 hours later a French fisherman issued a mayday call when he saw bodies floating in the water.

Mr Zada had hypothermia when he was found, and was treated in France.

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So far 27 bodies have been recovered from the English Channel.

Among those confirmed dead is Mariam Nouri Hamadameen, who was "glowing with hope" to reach her fiancé in the UK.

The incident has also sparked a diplomatic row, with France cancelling talks with the UK on the issue over a letter penned by Boris Johnson in which he asked France to take people back.