Three people including a child are feared dead after a migrant boat sank off the coast of France today.

One of them drowned and two others, including the child, died of a cardiac arrest, local French newspaper Voix Du Nord reported. 

French authorities have so far declined to comment on the reports that migrants have lost their lives and said an update will be issued later

They said that eighteen people have been taken to hospital.

Military resources as well as civilian boats have been involved in the rescue operation after the vessel was seen to be in difficulty near Dunkirk.

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The people are thought to have been trying to cross to the UK, despite wind gusts of up to 18mph.

The alarm was raised by a sailboat which notified search and rescue.

A number of resources were immediately contacted and despatched to aid the people aboard.

These included French patrol boats and a helicopter from the Belgian Air Force as well as a fishing boat.

Eighteen people have already been taken to hospitals in Calais and Dunkirk, according to the Maritime Prefecture of the Channel and the North Sea.

The search operation remains under way.

An investigation into the causes of the sinking has been launched by the Dunkirk public prosecutor.

More follows.

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