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This passage is from Boris Vian's story Les Fourmis (1949):

Heureusement, ça s'éclaircissait. Il en débarquait maintenant de grosses fournées des bateaux.

I don't see clearly the rôle of the 'en'. Is it referring back to the previous sentence? If so, how?

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Vian is referring to soldiers.

The hint is in an earlier sentence: Plus tard, on a été complétés.

New soldiers arrived from boats to reinforce them.

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    Thank you. Useful to know that 'en' can refer further back than the immediately preceding sentence.
    – Tom Adair
    Mar 27, 2022 at 18:06

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