‘My wife was on the boat’: Iraqi woman’s husband tells how migrants’ inflatable disappeared from GPS as he watched and now he fears she is among the 27 dead
The husband of an Iraqi woman feared to be among the 27 people who died in the English Channel has told how the migrants’ inflatable disappeared from GPS as he watched.
Maryam Nuri, from Ranya in the north of the country, is thought to be one of the victims of the capsized flimsy boat which sank off the coast of Calais on Wednesday amid harsh seas and cold temperatures.
Her husband, who did not want to be named, was among those anxiously waiting for news on their loved ones after lifeboatmen dragged the bodies of 17 men, seven women and three children from the water.
A Kurdish immigrant living in Britain, he told the Telegraph how he tried to track his wife’s journey from France to the UK, before her signal suddenly dropped.
‘She is not in the UK, which means that she is gone. It is very sad for me, and for everyone,’ he said.
‘I had continuous contact with my wife and I was tracking her live GPS. After four hours and 18 minutes from the moment she went into that boat, I think they were in the middle of the sea, then I lost her.’
French police carry on a stretcher an unidentified body discovered off the Sangatte beach, the day after 27 migrants died
A damaged inflatable dinghy, outboard motors, life jackets and sleeping bags abandoned by migrants are seen on the beach near the Slack dunes
It comes as it emerged last night that another migrant feared drowned in the Channel tragedy phoned a friend to say: ‘It’s not good, the engine isn’t powerful enough – I don’t know if we’re going to make it.’
Mohammad Aziz, 31, has not been heard of since his frantic call to a fellow Iraqi Kurd, Peshraw Aziz.
He told the Daily Mail last night from his camp in Calais: ‘He was panicking the boat might sink.’
Meanwhile, other migrants told how they feared for four Afghan youngsters who have also gone missing in the wake of Wednesday’s disaster which claimed at least 27 lives.
Riaz Mohammed, 12, his relative Share Mohammed, 17, and two other teenagers, Palowan, 16, and Shinai, 15, were among those attempting the perilous crossing that day.
Friends who were unable to contact them yesterday said they were worried they were among the dead.
One friend showed a TikTok video filmed on Monday of Riaz and Share, from Jalalabad, wearing life jackets on the beach as they prepared for an earlier attempted voyage to England.
A pregnant woman was among the 27 who perished. Officials said the dead included 17 men, seven women, two boys and one girl.
Yesterday a lifeboat volunteer who helped pull six bodies from the sea on Wednesday likened the horrific scene to a disaster movie.
Charles Devos, who was one of the first to arrive, said: ‘It was a bit like the film Titanic when you saw all these people plunged into the water, drowning, with no means of being able to be rescued.
‘Unfortunately, we were only able to recover the dead people.’
Riaz Mohammed, 12, his relative Share Mohammed, 17, pictured wearing life jackets on the beach prior to the crossing which resulted in the deaths of 27 people
He added: ‘I saw the blow-up boat had really deflated. Was it a valve that came loose or did it hit an object? I think it happened due to overloading.
‘Don’t forget, you think the sea is calm – the sea isn’t calm because it’s nearly always choppy.’
Mr Devos said: ‘We passed next to an inflatable boat that was completely deflated. What little air remained was keeping it afloat.
‘I don’t know if there were children, but we picked up [the body of] a pregnant woman and a young man who was around 18 or 20.’
The French coastguard released a harrowing recording of the Mayday call made after the dinghy was spotted floating empty seven miles off the coast of Calais.
A shocking photograph of the flimsy inflatable craft – described as barely more seaworthy than a child’s paddling pool – was taken by rescuers.
The only two survivors of the horror – an Iraqi and a Somalian – have reportedly told French police the dinghy was hit by a container ship that punctured its thin rubber hull and sank the vessel.
They were last night in intensive care in hospital suffering from hypothermia.
Last night, Mr Aziz told the Mail of his final conversation with his friend Mohammad an hour before the sinking.
The pair, both from the northern Iraqi town of Ranya, had met in a camp near Dunkirk as they waited to cross the Channel. They had both come into Europe via Belarus.
Mr Aziz, 30, said: ‘Mohammad decided to try his luck. But he phoned me in a panic and confessed that he wondered if he had made the right decision.
‘He told me that ‘it’s not good’, he thought the engine was not powerful enough, and was worried that the boat might sink, ‘I don’t know if we’re going to make it’. That was the last time I heard from him.’
According to Afghans still waiting to cross the Channel, pictured here are two of their countrymen feared drowned – Palowan, 16 (L) and Shinai, 15 (R)
French authorities have not released the names of the victims and there is no confirmation of whether Mohammad Aziz is among the dead.
Officials were briefing yesterday that the boat had been carrying Kurds from northern Iraq along with migrants from Afghanistan and Iran. They had lived in camps, slept at Calais railway station and – the night before the crossing attempt – had hidden themselves near a canal.
At a grim, rubbish-strewn camp near Dunkirk, fellow Afghans told the Mail of their fears for their missing friends. Referring to Riaz and Share Mohammed, one said: ‘They tried to get across three days ago, then they tried again yesterday (Wednesday) – and we haven’t heard from them since.’
They said the missing youngsters had been in a party of up to 100 which set off in three inflatables. Again, there was no official confirmation as to whether their friends are among the victims, made it safely to the UK or were detained by the French.
‘It’s not good, the engine isn’t powerful enough – I don’t know if we’re going to make it,’ said Mohammad Aziz, 31, on a frantic call to a fellow Iraqi Kurd, Peshraw Aziz as he attempted to cross the channel on a flimsy dinghy which sank, killing dozens.
One migrant in the camp, Hassan, 30, from Kabul, was refused asylum in Britain in July 2012 but is now trying to return. He said: ‘My friends Palowan and Shinai were on the same boat. They left me two messages the other day, one in the morning and one in the night, asking me to join them.’
He revealed Afghans described attempts to cross borders illegally as ‘The Game’, and said: ‘Shinai kept calling me saying, ‘Come on The Game’. I didn’t go.
‘I haven’t heard any more – and I think they’ve died. But I’m going to keep trying anyway. They had tried to cross many times. England is so close.’
Sources told the Mail how a female doctor was reduced to tears when confronted with the corpses laid out in a hangar at the Quai Paul depot in Calais.
None of the victims were said to be carrying passports or other documents – a tactic often used as it makes it harder to return migrants to their countries of origin.
Anna Richel, from French charity Utopia 56, which works closely with migrants in Dunkirk and Calais, said: ‘The migrants never cross the Channel with ID cards so it could take weeks to officially identify those who died.’