Nineteen dead after passenger plane crashes into Lake Victoria in Tanzania

Nineteen people have reportedly died after a passenger plane made a crash landing into Lake Victoria while attempting to reach a nearby airport in Tanzania.

The Precision Air flight carrying 43 passengers came down on Sunday at about 8.50am local time.

Over 20 people were rescued from the plane, the airline said in a statement. The state-owned Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC) initially confirmed three people were dead.

The death toll had risen to 19 by about 3pm on Sunday, UK time.

Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwae told reporters in Bukoba: “All Tanzanians join you in mourning these 19 people…who have lost their lives.”

Flight PW494, which departed from the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, "crash landed" into the lake as it was approaching the lakeside city of Bukoba, Precision Air said.

The cause was not immediately clear, but TBC said the incident took place amid storms and heavy rains.

The plane was carrying 39 passengers, including an infant, as well as four crew members, Precision Air added.

It initially said 26 of the 43 people on board were rescued, but later said 24 survivors were reported by emergency services at the scene.

The plane’s two pilots are believed to be among the dead, Albert Chalamila, chief administrator of Tanzania's Kagera region, told news agency Reuters. Its two flight attendants survived, he said.

Precision Air said in a statement: "Precision Air extends its deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the passenger(s) and crew involved in this tragic accident.

"The company will strive to provide them with information and whatever assistance they will require in this difficult time."

A witness told broadcaster TBC he saw the plane flying unsteadily as it approached the airport in poor visibility conditions, saying it took a turn for the airport but missed and went into the lake.

Video and pictures circulating on social media showed the plane almost fully submerged, with only its green and brown-coloured tail visible above the water line of Lake Victoria, Africa's largest lake.

Rescue boats were deployed, and emergency workers were continuing to pull trapped passengers from the plane, TBC reported.

Rescue workers were in touch with the pilots in the cockpit and were attempting to pull the plane from the lake, Albert Chalamila, the chief administrator of Tanzania's Kagera region, told reporters.

TBC footage showed scores of residents standing along the shoreline and others wading into the shallow waters, as rescuers carried on with their efforts.

Eyewitness Abdul Nuri - who had been at the airport awaiting the return flight - recalled seeing the plane plunge into the lake.

He told the BBC on Sunday: “We were really shocked. People panicked and some started crying and shouting.

“At the arrivals gate people panicked as well - most of them were waiting to welcome their relatives.”

Precision Air, Tanzania's largest privately owned airline, identified the aircraft as an ATR-48.

"We have managed to save quite a number of people," Kagera province police commander William Mwampaghale told journalists.

"When the aircraft was about 100 meters (328 feet) midair, it encountered problems and bad weather. It was raining and the plane plunged into the water," he said.

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

"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."