Four dead after boat capsizes off France

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At least four people have died after a boat carrying about 20 migrants capsized off the coast of Loon-Plage near Dunkirk in northern France.

"This is the heaviest toll we've ever had in the north," top state official Herve Tourmente told French radio France Bleu Nord on Tuesday.

A man, a woman and two children aged 8 and 5 were found dead, according to what the prefecture said was still a provisional toll.

Another 15 people were rescued, with eight suffering from hypothermia and two in cardiac arrest, local firefighters said earlier on Tuesday.

A major search operation was launched after the boat capsized in the morning. Emergency and medical crews attended the scene, along with a French Navy helicopter.

"My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who tragically lost their lives in the Channel today," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter.

"We have offered the French authorities every support as they investigate this terrible incident and will do all we can to crack down on the ruthless criminal gangs who prey on vulnerable people by facilitating these dangerous journeys."

Several thousand migrants have attempted the crossing of the English Channel this year, often paying smugglers to help them through one of the world's busiest shipping lanes in overloaded rubber dinghies.

Britain has repeatedly pressed President Emmanuel Macron's government to do more to prevent the migrants leaving France.