ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) -The death toll from the sinking of a cargo ship off the coast of northeastern Madagascar rose to 83 on Wednesday as bad weather ended the search for five missing passengers, the maritime agency said.
The ship, which was not authorised to take passengers, was overloaded and water flooded the engine before it sank on Monday, said Mamy Randrianavony, director of operations at sea at the Maritime and River Port Agency (APMF).
Fifty survivors have been found, APMF said. The search for the five remaining missing passengers would resume on Thursday.
One of the search helicopters carrying General Serge Gellé, who heads the national Gendarmerie, crashed at sea late on Monday. Gellé was found alive on Tuesday morning after 13 hours, during which time he used the pilot’s seat as a float.
“Since I couldn’t fight the waves, I knew I wouldn’t make it to dry land. Yet I was very close. I arrived within 500 meters, but the waves sent me back because I was getting tired,” Gellé said in a video posted by the Gendarmerie.
“I thank heaven that there was a fisherman. But the fisherman’s canoe was too small. So he had to come back for a bigger canoe. So I stayed two more hours in the sea,” Gellé said from a hospital in the Madagascan capital.
Another passenger from the helicopter, a mechanic, was also found alive. Two other passengers are unaccounted for.
(Reporting by Lovasoa Rabary; Writing by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Toby Chopra and Nick Macfie)