Madagascar's minister swam about 12 hours to shore after his helicopter crashed off the island’s north-east coast, authorities said on Wednesday.
Police and port authorities affirmed that a search is continuing for two other passengers, noting that the cause of the crash was not immediately clear.
Serge Gelle, the country’s secretary of state for police, and a fellow police officer reached land in the seaside town of Mahambo separately on Tuesday morning, according to port authority chief Jean-Edmond Randrianantenaina.
In a video shared on social media, 57-year-old Gelle appears lying exhausted on a deck chair, still in his camouflage uniform.
“My time to die hasn’t come yet,” says the general, adding he is cold but not injured.
Notably, the helicopter was flying them to inspect the site of a shipwreck off the north-east coast on Monday morning.
Police chief Zafisambatra Ravoavy stated that at least 39 people died in that disaster. This morning, an increase from an earlier toll after rescue workers retrieved 18 more bodies.
Ravoavy earlier told AFP that 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 said. “He has nerves of steel.”