The death toll from Sunday’s plane crash in Lake Victoria in Tanzania has jumped to 19, according to the country’s Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa.
The plane, which departed from the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, crashed while attempting to land during stormy weather.
When the jet crashed into the lake while it was flying over the city of Bukoba in northwest Tanzania, Majaliwa addressed the media. “All Tanzanians join you in mourning these 19 persons… who have lost their lives.”
43 individuals were on board the aircraft, according to regional commissioner Albert Chalamila, including 39 passengers, 2 pilots, and 2 cabin personnel.
Out of the 43 passengers on board flight PW 494, 26 survivors were rescued and transported to a hospital in Bukoba, a lakeside city in the Kagera region, according to local authorities and the airline.
The number of persons on board the 48-seater aircraft may have been higher than initially reported, a regional official said, although it was not readily evident if the 19 deaths included any rescuers who drowned.
“We are continuing to investigate,” added Chalamila. “There is a possibility that two people were not onboard but died during the rescue effort.”
Tanzania’s biggest privately run airline, Precision Air, reported that it has sent rescuers to the location.
“An investigation team consisting of Precision Air technical staff and TAA (Tanzania Airports Authority) has also departed to join the rescue team on the ground,” the airline stated in a report.
The police chief for Kagera province William Mwampaghale earlier in the day told reporters, “We have managed to save quite a number of people.”
“When the aircraft was about 100 metres [328 feet] midair, it encountered problems and bad weather. It was raining and the plane plunged into the water. Everything is under control.”
Only the plane’s green and brown tail could be seen above the lake’s surface in images from news reporting of the incident.
A journalist reported that emergency services were on the location while talking from Dar es Salaam.
“According to the police commander in Bukoba, the plane crashed due to bad weather, fog. It is raining around that area. Rescue efforts are still ongoing. The airline has worked in Tanzania for so long and has had no crashes,” sources added.
The largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria, borders Bukoba Airport. Emergency personnel continued to rescue additional stranded passengers while rescue boats were launched.
During the rescue effort, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan urged restraint.
“I have received with sadness the news of the accident involving Precision Air’s plane,” she posted on tweeter. “Let’s be calm at this moment when rescuers are continuing with the rescue mission while praying to God to help us.”