Two lifeboats were launched at Dover in the early hours of last night after reports of a life raft sighting.
Dover Coastguard received three reports from ferries of the flashing lights of a life raft at 11pm last night.
Shortly after, Dover and Ramsgate lifeboats were launched in the severe wind and rain and were searching the sea till around 3am this morning.
Dover lifeboat in action.
Andy Roberts, RNLI press officer said: “It was storm force 10 which means it was raining heavily and very rough seas, there was only about 400 yards of visibility.
“They were searching to see where the life raft had come from, to check if anything had sunk and checking the water for people.”
After several hours of searching the RAF helicopter was due to launch from Suffolk but was cancelled when training vessel, Atherly, a 400 tonne converted trawler, contacted the coastguard to say its life raft had been washed overboard in the rough waves.
The vessel claims it heard a loud crash at about 9pm last night and it wasn’t till the early hours of the morning that crews realised the life raft had been washed away.
The search was called off shortly after 3am after four hours of searching and the empty life raft was not found.
Mr Roberts explained that when a life raft become detached from a vessel it will automatically inflate and the lights will come on.