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.
“All Tanzanians join you in mourning these 19 people … who have lost their lives,” Majaliwa told reporters in the northwestern city of Bukoba, where the plane was approaching the airport before it plunged into water.
Regional commissioner Albert Chalamila said 43 people – including 39 passengers, two pilots and two cabin crew – were on board the plane.
Local authorities and the airline earlier said that 26 survivors out of the 43 people on board flight PW 494 had been pulled to safety and taken to hospital in Bukoba, a lakeside city in the Kagera region.
It was not immediately clear if the 19 victims included rescuers who drowned or whether the 48-seater aircraft had more people on board than previously disclosed, a regional official said.
“We are continuing to investigate,” said Chalamila. “There is a possibility that two people were not onboard but died during the rescue effort.”
Precision Air, Tanzania’s largest privately-owned 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.
“We have managed to save quite a number of people,” Kagera province police Commander William Mwampaghale told journalists earlier in the day.
“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.”
News reports showed photos of the plane mostly submerged in the lake with only its green- and brown-coloured tail visible above the water line.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Dar es Salaam, journalist Faraji Saidi said emergency services were at the scene.
“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,” Saidi said.
Bukoba Airport is on the shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake. Rescue boats were deployed and emergency workers continued to rescue other passengers trapped on the plane.
Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan called for calm during the rescue operation.
“I have received with sadness the news of the accident involving Precision Air’s plane,” she tweeted. “Let’s be calm at this moment when rescuers are continuing with the rescue mission while praying to God to help us.”