A Tanzanian Air plane crashed into Lake Victoria while attempting to land in Bukoba, killing at least 19 people and 24 survivors out of the 43 on board.
The two pilots initially survived and were able to communicate with local officials from the cockpit, but the prime minister believes they have since died.
The plane went down near the beach near the end of the Bukoba airport runway. Rescuers were able to wade through the water and save some of those who remained inside the plane.
Abdul Nuri was waiting for a flight back to Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam, when he saw the plane crash into Africa’s largest lake.
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“We were really shocked. People panicked and some started crying and shouting,” Abdul Nuri said.
“At the arrivals gate, people panicked as well – most of them were waiting to welcome their relatives.”
He has spoken with the first responders, the fishermen. They told him that they were able to enter the plane to rescue people after a flight attendant opened the rear door after the plane crashing.
Bad weather has been blamed for the tragedy, which occurred around 08:50 local time (05:50 GMT).
Onlookers on the shores of Lake Victoria captured video of the aircraft submerged in the water, with emergency responders coordinating rescue efforts from nearby boats.
Precision Air CEO Patrick Mwanri was visibly distressed as he spoke to reporters in Dar es Salaam on Sunday.
Mwanri’s voice broke and he had to pause to wipe away tears as he explained that the plane had taken off around 6 a.m. local time and was scheduled to arrive in the northwestern lakeside town of Bukoba at 8.30 a.m.
To communicate with the passengers’ families, the regional airline has opened a Crisis Management Center and information centers in Bukoba and Dar es Salaam.
Following the news of the crash, Tanzania’s President took to social media to urge Tanzanians to be calm as rescuers worked at the crash site.
“I have received with sadness the information of the crash of the Precision Air flight at Lake Victoria, in the Kagera region,” President Samia Suluhu Hassan wrote on Twitter Sunday.
“I send my condolences to all those affected by this incident. Let’s continue to be calm as the rescue operation continues and we pray to God to help us.”She concluded.