Airliner crashes into Lake Victoria in Tanzania


By Nuzulack Dausen

DAR ES SALAAM, November 6 (Reuters)A Precision Air plane carrying 43 people crashed into Lake Victoria on Sunday while trying to reach a nearby airport in Tanzania, the airline said.

At least three people were killed, the state broadcaster said in a tweet, citing a local official. There was no immediate confirmation from the airline, which earlier said 26 people had been rescued from the plane.

Flight PW494, which took off from the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, “crashed” into the lake as it approached the lakeside town of Bukoba, Precision Air added.

The cause was not immediately clear, but the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) said the incident happened amid thunderstorms and heavy rain.

A witness told TBC he saw the plane hover unsteadily as it approached the airport in poor visibility, saying it turned into the airport but the had missed and entered the lake.

Videos and images circulating on social media showed the plane almost completely submerged, with only its green and brown tail visible above the waterline of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake.

Lifeboats were deployed and rescuers continued to remove trapped passengers from the plane, TBC said.

Footage from the broadcaster showed dozens of residents standing along the shoreline and others wading through shallow water, as rescuers continued their efforts.

Rescuers were in contact with the pilots in the cockpit and were trying to pull the plane out of the lake, Albert Chalamila, the chief administrator of Kagera region in Tanzania, told reporters.

TBC then quoted Chalamila as saying three bodies were removed from the plane.

The plane was carrying 39 passengers, including an infant, as well as four crew members, the airline said.

Precision Air, Tanzania’s largest private airline, identified the plane as an ATR42-500. The Franco-Italian manufacturer ATR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Airline officials did not respond to calls asking for more details about the incident.

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan called for calm as the rescue operation continued.

“I was saddened to receive the news of the crash involving the Precision Air plane,” she tweeted. “Let’s be calm as rescuers continue the rescue mission while praying to God for help.”

(Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri Writing by Elias Biryabarema Editing by Alexandra Zavis, William Maclean and Helen Popper)

((Email:elias.biryabarema@thomsonreuters.com; tel. +254 20 499 1232; Reuters messaging: elias.biryabarema.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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