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Madagascar minister ‘swims for 12 hours’ after sea crash

Serge Gelle, who heads the national gendarmerie, reaches safety in the seaside town of Mahambo after his helicopter surveying a shipwreck crashed off the north-eastern coast

A MADAGASCAN minister was one of two survivors to have swum some 12 hours to shore after their helicopter crashed off the island’s north-eastern coast.

A search was still ongoing for two other passengers after the crash on Monday, whose cause was not immediately clear, police and port authorities said on Tuesday.

Serge Gelle, the country’s secretary of state for police, and a fellow policeman reached land in the seaside town of Mahambo separately on Tuesday morning, apparently, after ejecting themselves from the aircraft, port authority chief Jean-Edmond Randrianantenaina said.

In a video shared on social media, 57-year-old Gelle appears lying exhausted on a deck chair, still in his camouflage uniform.

‘My time to die hasn’t come yet,’ said the general, adding he is cold but not injured.

‘He has nerves of steel’

The helicopter was flying him and the others to inspect the site of a shipwreck off the north-eastern coast on Monday morning.

At least 39 people died in that disaster, police chief Zafisambatra Ravoavy said Tuesday, in an increase from a previous toll after rescue workers retrieved 18 more bodies.

Ravoavy earlier told the AFP news agency that Gelle had used one of the helicopter’s seats as a flotation device.

‘He has always had great stamina in sport, and he’s kept up this rhythm as a minister, just like a thirty-year-old,’ he said.

‘He has nerves of steel.’

Gella became a minister as part of a cabinet reshuffle in August after serving in the police for three decades.



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