A man swam for 12 hours after his helicopter crashed during a rescue mission.
Serge Gelle, Madagascar's policing minister, was uninjured after his helicopter plummeted into the sea off the island's northeastern coast on Monday (20 December).
The 57-year-old and another police officer were part of a rescue mission for a cargo ship that had sunk.
According to reports, the vessel was illegally carrying 138 passengers when it sank.
It's understood that at least 64 people have died while a further 24 remain missing and 50 survivors have been found.
♦️Le GDI Serge GELLE, un des passagers de l'hélicoptère accidenté hier a été retrouvé sain et sauf ce matin du côté de Mahambo.— Ministère de la Défense Nationale Madagascar (@MDN_Madagascar) December 21, 2021
☑️ Les sapeurs sauveteurs de la #4°UPC ont également retrouvé le carcasse de l'hélicoptère au fond de la mer. pic.twitter.com/sP2abwTMwB
Both Mr Gelle and his fellow officer were able to eject themselves from the helicopter when it came into trouble while inspecting the sight of the sunken vessel.
They eventually made it, separately, to the town of Mahambo on Tuesday (21 December).
Speaking in a video after his mammoth journey, Mr Gelle said: "I am alive, I arrived safely in Mahambo and I am grateful to all fishers and villagers of Mahambo, also to the hotel manager Mr Jason.
"I have been swimming from yesterday at 7.30 pm to today 7.30 am. It wasn't my time to die, thanks God."
Two others who were in the helicopter remain unaccounted for.
Discussing the shipwreck, Jean Edmond Randrianantenaina, the director-general of the Maritime and River Port Agency, said it's thought that a hole in the boat's hull caused it to take on water and sink.
He said: "According to the information we were able to gather, water entered the engine room. The water started to rise and it swallowed up all the engines.
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.— Andry Rajoelina (@SE_Rajoelina) December 21, 2021
Je prie solennellement pour le repos de leurs âmes. pic.twitter.com/nZzJsaYMtL
"Then the ship began to sink. We don't know exactly what time the water started to rise, but our interventions began around 9am."
Following the incident, Andry Rajoelina, the President of Madagascar, shared his condolences with the friends and families of those affected.
In a tweet, he said: "My thoughts are with the victims and their bereaved loved ones. I solemnly pray for the rest of their souls.
"My thoughts are also on the helicopter pilot, Colonel Hery Rakotomiliarison and Colonel Olivier Andrianambinina sent to the area, victims of a crash, still missing. Courage to their loved ones and their families in this ordeal.
"I salute the entire dedication of the Secretary of State for the Gendarmerie, General Serge Gellé and Chief Warrant Officer Andrianarison Laitsara Jimmy, survivors of the crash while their helicopter went to the aid of the castaways.
"The state is fully mobilised to provide all the necessary assistance to the victims of these dramatic events."
He added: "Search operations continue to save lives."
Featured Image Credit: Ministry of Defence of Madagascar
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