A plane carrying 43 people plunged into Lake Victoria in Tanzania early on Sunday due to bad weather shortly before it was due to land in the northwestern city of Bukoba, police said, as rescuers searched for survivors.
“There was an accident involving a Precision Air plane which… crashed into water about 100 meters from the airport,” regional police commander William Mwampaghale told reporters at Bukoba airport.
Regional commissioner Albert Chalamila said 43 people, including 39 passengers, two pilots and two cabin crew, were aboard flight PW 494 from financial capital Dar es Salaam to the lakeside city in Kagera region.
“As we speak, we have managed to rescue 26 people who were taken to our referral hospital,” Chalamila said.
“The rescue operation is still ongoing and we are communicating with the pilots,” he said, adding that the aircraft was an ATR-42, manufactured by Toulouse-based Franco-Italian firm ATR.
Precision Air, which is Tanzania’s largest private airline, released a brief statement confirming the accident.
“The rescue team has been dispatched to the scene and more information will be released in 2 hours’ time,” the airline said.
Video footage broadcast on local media showed the plane largely submerged as rescuers, including fishermen, waded through water to bring people to safety.
Emergency workers attempted to lift the aircraft out of the water using ropes, assisted by cranes as local residents also sought to help in the effort.
President Samia Suluhu Hassan expressed her condolences to those affected by the accident.
“Let’s continue to be calm while the rescue operation continues as we pray to God to help us,” she said on Twitter.
‘Hearts and prayers’
The African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat also shared his condolences, as did the secretary general of the regional East African Community bloc, Peter Mathuki.
“Our hearts and prayers go to the families of passengers on-board a plane that crashed into Lake Victoria, with our full solidarity to the Government & people of #Tanzania,” he said on Twitter.
“The East African Community joins and sends our condolences to Mama Samia Suluhu Hassan, families and friends of all those who were affected by the Precision Air plane accident,” Mathuki said on Twitter.
Precision Air, which is partly owned by Kenya Airways, was founded in 1993 and operates domestic and regional flights as well as private charters to popular tourist destinations such as the Serengeti National Park and the Zanzibar archipelago.
The accident comes five years after 11 people died when a plane belonging to safari company Coastal Aviation crashed in northern Tanzania.
In March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi plunged six minutes after take-off into a field southeast of the Ethiopian capital, killing all 157 people on board.
In 2007, a Kenya Airways flight from the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan to Kenya’s capital Nairobi crashed into a swamp after take-off, killing all 114 passengers.
In 2000, another Kenya Airways flight from Abidjan to Nairobi crashed into the Atlantic Ocean minutes after take-off, killing 169 people while 10 survived.