LONDON — Desperate migrants climbed on the roof of a high-speed train in a bid to traverse the 30-mile tunnel linking France and Britain, according to a passenger.
People were heard walking on the roof of the stationary train after staff told them migrants had clambered aboard, London-based lobbyist Simon Gentry told NBC News.
"The manager of the train came and said, 'We're really sorry, we have had to stop because there are migrants on the line. We understand there are people on the roof of the train,'" said the 48-year-old Gentry, who had been in Paris on business.
Gentry quoted the train manager as asking passengers: "Please can you help us and listen out for people walking on the roof on the train, and if you hear anything please can you tell the crew?"
His train was one of eight services between the British and French capitals that were disrupted because of migrant "trespassers" on the tracks on Tuesday night, train operator Eurostar told NBC News.
A Eurostar spokesman said that they had not been in contact with train staff so could not confirm people had climbed on the roof. Eurostar trains typically travel 100 mph in the tunnel and exceed 180 mph on the British section of the route.
Tuesday's incident comes against the backdrop of a deepening crisis in Europe, with thousands of migrants and refugees attempting the perilous journey each week from conflict-riven countries in the Middle East and Africa.
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Gentry's train stopped near the French port city of Calais, less than two miles from the entrance to the tunnel that runs beneath the English Channel.
"We could see migrants moving around the train," he said. "There was lots of noise … coming from the roof."
French police arrived after 30 minutes and a helicopter was dispatched to scan the roof. Eurostar said the case was being handled by French police, who were not immediately available for comment when contacted by NBC News.
In another twist, Gentry's train also broke down. To save power, train staff turned off the air conditioning and dimmed the lights, which eventually went out altogether, so the passengers were stranded in the darkness and "intense" heat, Gentry said.
Passengers were eventually dropped off at the nearby Calais Frethun train station, where they were still waiting to be collected by another Eurostar service from London at 10 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET).