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Madagascar minister Serge Gelle swims 12 hours to safety after chopper crash

Agencies

A Madagascan minister was one of the two survivors, to have swum at least 12 hours to safety on December 21, following the crash of a helicopter off the country’s northeast coast, authorities confirmed.

A search is said to be still ongoing for two other passengers after the crash on Monday, whose cause hasn’t been identified yet, according to police and port authorities.

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.

The 57-year-old Gelle appeared exhausted as he lay on a deck chair, still in his camouflage uniform.

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

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

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

At least 21 people have died and around 60 gone missing in that disaster, according to the latest official toll on Tuesday.

Mr Zafisambatra Ravoavy, another police general, told reporters 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 thirty-year-old,” he said, adding: “He has the nerves of steel.”

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