DAR ES SALAAM: Three people died when a plane carrying dozens of passengers plunged into Lake Victoria in Tanzania on Sunday as it approached the northwestern city of Bukoba, the fire and rescue service said.
Rescuers have pulled 26 survivors to safety after the Precision Air plane crashed due to bad weather, with 43 people, including 39 passengers, aboard flight PW 494 from the financial capital Dar es Salaam to the lakeside city, according to regional authorities.
“Three are reported dead. Rescue is ongoing,“ the fire and rescue service said in a statement, urging people to “remain calm”.
Precision Air, a publicly-listed company which is Tanzania's largest private airline, said it had dispatched rescuers to the scene.
“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 said in a statement.
“Precision Air sincerely understands the anxiety for confirmed information and will therefore do its best to issue more details,“ the company said.
“The next update will be issued as soon as we receive more information from the accident scene.”
It said the aircraft was an ATR 42-500, manufactured by Toulouse-based Franco-Italian firm ATR.
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,“ Faki wrote 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, also 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.-AFP