ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) – A boat accident off the coast of northeastern Madagascar killed at least 19 people, and searches were under way to locate 66 passengers who remained unaccounted for, the country’s maritime agency said on Tuesday.
The vessel, a cargo ship that was not authorized to transport people, was overloaded and water flooded the engine, said Mamy Randrianavony, director of operations at sea at the Maritime and River Port Agency (APMF).
There were 130 passengers on the ship, travelling from Antanambe to Soanierana Ivongo, and 45 were found alive.
“Searches are under way to locate the other passengers. Three boats have been sent to search,” said Randrianavony.
A search helicopter carrying General Serge Gellé, who heads the national Gendarmerie, crashed at sea late on Monday. Gellé was found alive Tuesday morning after swimming for nearly 12 hours, he said in a video posted to social media. A mechanic on board the helicopter was also found, but two passengers remain unaccounted for.
Gellé was accompanying Prime Minister Christian Ntsay and the Minister of National Defence General Léon Richard Rakotonirina, who had travelled to the region to oversee the search operations in a separate helicopter.
(Reporting by Lovasoa Rabary; Writing by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by Bernadette Baum)