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African StoriesMadagascar minister 'swims' 12 hours to safety

Madagascar minister ‘swims’ 12 hours to safety

Miracles do happen! The Police Minister Serge Gelle was caught up in that positive situation. The government minister in Madagascar had swam for 12 hours to safety after his helicopter crashed at sea during a rescue.

“It’s not my time to die,” fatigued Police Minister Serge Gelle said as he cools off on a stretcher. Two other security officials travelling with him in the helicopter also survived the crash.

The Police Minister Serge Gelle on his stretcher

The crew had been scouting an area in the north-eastern part of the country where a passenger boat had sunk. The number of people killed in that accident has spiked up to 64 with at least 20 others still missing, the maritime agency has confirmed.

The vessel was an unauthorized cargo ship to carry passengers, and was overloaded past its passenger capacity and water flooded its engine, an agency official was quoted as saying.

At least 45 officials 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.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Gelle, 57, explained his helicopter came down after it caught a violent 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 frigid.

“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 means of support to remain afloat.

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 august appointment as Police Minister.


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