Madagascar: Minister ‘swims for 12 hours’ after helicopter crashes at sea
A government minister in Madagascar has said he swam for 12 hours to safety after his helicopter crashed at sea during a rescue mission.
“It’s not my time to die,” exhausted Police Minister Serge Gelle said as he recovered on a stretcher.
Another security official travelling with him in the helicopter also survived the crash.
The team had been flying to inspect the site of a shipwreck in the north-east of the country on Monday night.
The number of people killed in that accident has risen to 64 with at least 20 others still missing, the maritime agency has said
The vessel was a cargo ship that was not authorised to carry passengers, and was overloaded and water flooded its engine, an agency official was quoted by Reuters news as saying.
At least 45 survivors have so far been rescued, the agency said.
On Twitter President Andry Rajoelina mourned those who died and also paid tribute to Mr Gelle and the other officer, who arrived in the seaside town of Mahambo separately.
The helicopter’s pilot and another military officer on board are still missing, he said.
C’est avec une profonde tristesse que j’ai appris le naufrage d’un navire au large d’Antsiraka et son terrible bilan. Mes pensées vont aux victimes et à leurs proches endeuillés.
Je prie solennellement pour le repos de leurs âmes. pic.twitter.com/nZzJsaYMtL
— Andry Rajoelina (@SE_Rajoelina) December 21, 2021
Speaking on Tueday, Mr Gelle, 57, said his helicopter came down after it caught a gust of wind, and he swam from “7:30 last night , until 7:30 this morning,” to Mahambo.
He said he had no injuries but added that he was feeling cold.
“I would just like you to broadcast this video for my family to see, my colleagues to see, the government members to see. [I am] alive and well,” Mr Gelle told locals at Mahambo.
Police chief Zafisambatra Ravoavy told news agency AFP that Mr 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 minister, just like a 30-year-old… he has nerves of steel,” Mr Ravoavy said.
Mr Gelle had served in the police for three decades before his appointment as minister in August. BBC News