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Plane carrying five people crashes into Melbourne shopping centre

A plane carrying five people has crashed into a shopping centre near Essendon airport in Melbourne, Australia.

The light aircraft crashed into the DFO shopping centre, exploding on impact, at around 9am local time on Tuesday.

State police in Victoria have confirmed five people were on board the plane, and said there were “a number of fatalities”.

The shopping centre is on the edge of Essendon airport, which does not open to the public until 10am.

It has been reported by Australian news channels that staff working in the store hit by the plane were unharmed.

Eight fire crews are reported to be battling the blaze which broke out in the shopping centre following the crash.

Eyewitnesses described seeing “an orange explosion”. Sun Herald columnist Mikey Cahill said: “I saw a yellow and red fiery ball explode and then black plumes of smoke.”

The plane was a charter flight to King Island in Bass Strait between the Australian mainland and the southern island state of Tasmania. It is believed to have come down shortly after take-off.

Victoria’s Minister for Police Lisa Neville told Sky News: “It appears to be a very, very tragic accident that’s occurred out here.

“It appears that a light plane which was a charter flight has impacted the DFO out at Essendon Fields. There is also debris that has been left on the Freeway. It is too early yet to know whether there have been any injuries or fatalities.”

Several images of the crash appeared on social media, where there was incorrect speculation that the aircraft was an air ambulance.

Pilot radar websites reportedly indicate the plane was a Beechcraft B200 Super King Air.

Essendon Airport is a mall airfield used mainly by light planes. A spokeswoman for Airservice Australia said flights in and out of Melbourne’s main airport were not affected.

The accident is the worst plane crash in the state for the last 30 years, authorities said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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