This video can not be played
Watch: Migrants rescued from sinking boat in English Channel
Four people have died after a migrant boat got into difficulties crossing the English Channel on a freezing night.
A fishing crew spotted the dinghy sinking in cold waters between Kent and France just after 03:00 GMT.
The skipper pulled his boat alongside and his crew hauled 31 people to safety in a dramatic rescue operation, the BBC has been told.
Footage filmed from the boat showed some dressed only in T-shirts and thin lifejackets screaming for help.
The video – shared by the owner of the fishing trawler, Ben Squire – showed crew members pulling people up out of the water and the boat with ropes.
People can be heard panicking and shouting as water appears to fill the inflatable boat.
In the night sky, helicopter lights shine down and airlift people away, as lifeboats arrive at the scene to continue rescuing people.
People rescued from the dinghy said they had each paid £5,000 to cross the English Channel, the BBC has been told.
A government spokesman said authorities were alerted at 03:05 GMT to a small boat in difficulty off the coast of Dungeness, 30 miles west of Dover.
Mr Squire, who was not on the boat for the rescue, said the skipper Ray Strachan told him they saved 31 people.
After hauling them to safety, the crew gave them hot showers, their own clothes and fed them to help warm them up.
Mr Squire said the sea was quite cold and the conditions were "a little bit rough".
Temperatures dropped to 1C overnight on Tuesday, with it likely to have been colder out at sea. A yellow weather warning for ice was in place across Kent at the time.
It was a horrific incident, he said, but the crew did a "cracking job".
"They did brilliantly getting that many people on board the boat", Mr Squire told the BBC.
Lifeboat crews tried to resuscitate some survivors on the quayside in Dover and a helicopter took one adult to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford where he later died, according to the BBC's Mark Easton.
Another adult victim, thought to have also received treatment, has since been discharged.
A French organisation, Utopia 56, which helps migrants in Calais, said it was contacted at 01:53 GMT – with a voice message and a location – by a boat in distress in the English Channel.
Nikolai Posner from the organisation said the voice message stated there were people in the water and families on board.
"It was clearly an emergency, he was calling for help," he told PA News.
"It was like 'help us, help us, help us, we need help'," said Mr Posner, who added that babies could be heard "screaming" in the background of the message.
However the organisation said it was not possible to verify whether this distress call was from the boat in question.
"Our hearts go out to all those affected by this tragic event," said Home Secretary Suella Braverman and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin in a joint statement.
They added that the incident was a "stark reminder of the urgent need to destroy the business model of smugglers".
"These are the days that we dread," Ms Braverman said.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier expressed his sorrow at the "tragic loss of human life".
The boat is likely to have been carrying migrants risking the crossing from France, a day after Mr Sunak announced new measures to "stop the boats".
In those plans, the PM promised more staff to help clear some of the UK's backlog of asylum cases by the end of next year.
The UK coastguard, the French Navy, the RNLI and an air ambulance were all sent to help with the rescue operation.
Coastguard helicopters from Lydd and Lee on Solent were also involved.
South East Coast Ambulance Service said it was called following reports of the incident, and sent crews to Dover, in Kent, to help with the follow-up operation.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was "heartbreaking" that there have been more deaths in the Channel, and Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said she was "very saddened" to hear of the tragedy.
It follows a fatal incident in November 2021, when at least 27 migrants died after a dinghy sank while heading to the UK from France.
Some 460 people made the journey from France to Kent in small boats between Friday and Sunday, the BBC's Simon Jones said.
Nearly 45,000 people have made the journey this year so far.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said he was "praying for the victims of today's terrible events", tweeting that debates about asylum seekers "are not about statistics, but precious human lives".
Tim Naor Hilton, from the charity Refugee Action, said the tragedy was predictable and inevitable, and more people would die trying to reach safety if the government did not create more routes for people to claim asylum.
How is the UK stopping Channel crossings?
Special counsel to investigate Biden documents
Special counsel appointed to investigate Biden files
Putin lays into minister for 'fooling around'
Why reporting on Iran comes at a heavy price
How UK schools are tackling Andrew Tate's influence
The mystery buses behind Brazil Congress attack
Traffic stopped for koala crossing highway. Video
Which royal came off best in the fallout from Spare?
Why the battle for a Ukrainian salt town matters
Indian cricket's elusive search for a perfect team
Hunting out cash from under Nigeria's mattresses
Denmark's surreal dining experience
20 of the best films to watch in 2023
How to build astonishing self-control
The people living in multiple timelines
© 2023 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read about our approach to external linking.
Four people dead after migrant boat started sinking – BBC
This video can not be played