A Tanzanian commercial flight operated by Precision Air made an emergency landing in bad weather in Lake Victoria on Sunday, killing 19 people.
The country’s prime minister, Kassim Majaliwa, said officials believed all bodies had been removed from the plane.
“We are starting to remove luggage and personal belongings from the plane. A team of doctors and security agencies have started the process of identifying the dead and notifying the families,” Majaliva said.
The airline confirmed the death toll and lowered the number of survivors to 24 in an updated statement Sunday evening. Earlier, the carrier and local authorities said 26 of the 43 people on board had been rescued.
“Precision Air extends its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the passenger and crew involved in this tragic incident. The company will endeavor to provide them with information and whatever assistance they need at this difficult time,” the airline said.
“The names of the passengers and crew on board the aircraft will not be released until all next of kin have been notified,” he added.
The flight, carrying 39 passengers and four crew members, took off from Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam and was headed for the town of Bukoba before plunging into Lake Victoria as it prepared to land.
A video circulating on social media, taken by onlookers on the shores of Lake Victoria, shows the plane submerged in the water, with emergency crews coordinating rescue efforts from nearby boats.
Precision Air CEO Patrick Mwanri looked visibly worried 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 said the plane took off at around 6am local time and was expected in the northwestern lakeside town of Bukoba at 8.30am
“But at 8.53am, our operations control center received a report that this aircraft had not arrived,” he said in a televised statement.
The incident is believed to have occurred on the final approach to the airport, whose runway begins right next to Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest freshwater lake.
Local authorities suggested bad weather may have played a role in the incident, saying the area was under heavy rainfall and strong winds at the time.
The regional airline opened a Crisis Management Center and set up information zones in Bukoba and Dar es Salaam to communicate with passengers’ families.
Following news of the crash, Tanzania’s president took to social media to appeal for calm as rescuers worked at the site of the downed plane.
“I am saddened to learn of the crash of a Precision Air flight at Lake Victoria, in the Kagera region,” President Samia Suluhu Hassan wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
“My condolences to all those affected by this incident. Let us continue to be calm as the rescue operation continues and pray to God to help us.”
Precision Air is a Tanzanian airline based in Dar es Salaam.