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The death toll from the sinking of a cargo ship off the coast of northeastern Madagascar had risen to 83 when bad weather ended the search for five missing passengers on Wednesday, says the maritime agency.

The ship, which was not authorised to take passengers, was overloaded. 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, said the agency. The search for the five remaining missing passengers resumed on Thursday.

One of the search helicopters carrying Gen Serge Gellé, national Gendarmerie chief, crashed at sea late on Monday. Gellé was found alive on Tuesday morning after 13 hours. He survived, using 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 500m, but the waves sent me back because I was getting tired,” Gellé said in a video posted by the police.

“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.



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