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Madagascar Minister swam for 12 hours after helicopter crash

By Reuters and Winfrey Owino | Dec 22nd 2021 | 1 min read

General Serge Gellé was accompanying Prime Minister Christian Ntsay and the Minister of National Defence General Léon Richard Rakotonirina to the area. [Courtesy]

Madagascar's Minister General Serge Gellé, who heads the national Gendarmerie, swam for 12 hours after a search helicopter he was aboard crashed at sea late on Monday, December 20.

Gellé was found alive Tuesday, December 21, morning after swimming for nearly 12 hours, he said in a video posted to social media.

A mechanic on board the helicopter was also found, but two passengers remain unaccounted for.

Gellé was accompanying Prime Minister Christian Ntsay and the Minister of National Defence General Léon Richard Rakotonirina, who had travelled to the region to oversee search operations in a separate helicopter.

The search was for a boat accident off the coast of northeastern Madagascar that had killed at least 19 people, and searches were under way to locate 66 passengers who remained unaccounted for, the country's maritime agency said on Tuesday.

The vessel, a cargo ship that was not authorised to transport people, was overloaded and water flooded the engine, said Mamy Randrianavony, director of operations at sea at the Maritime and River Port Agency (APMF).

Reports by Reuters indicated that there were 130 passengers on the ship, travelling from Antanambe to Soanierana Ivongo, and 45 were found alive.

"Searches are underway to locate the other passengers. Three boats have been sent to search," said Randrianavony.

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