Plane crash in Malta leaves at least five dead

A light aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff from Luqa airport in Malta, killing at least five people

A small plane which crashed in a fireball at Malta International Airport soon after take-off, killing all five crew members aboard, had been heading to Libya to monitor migrant trafficking routes for the French government.

The twin-prop Metroliner tipped towards the right, crashed into the ground and burst into flames shorly after taking off at 7.20am local time on Monday, eyewitnesses said. See PA story AIR Malta. Photo credit : Ed De Gaetano/@eddydeg/Twitter/PA Wire

The twin-prop Metroliner tipped towards the right, crashed into the ground and burst into flames shorly after taking off at 7.20am local time on Monday, eyewitnesses said. See PA story AIR Malta. Photo credit : Ed De Gaetano/@eddydeg/Twitter/PA Wire

The twin-prop Fairchild Metroliner exploded in a huge ball of flame and smoke shortly after take-off on Monday morning.

A statement from the Maltese government said all five victims were French.

It added that the flight was part of a French customs surveillance operation tracing routes of illicit trafficking, including drugs and people-smuggling.

Part of the burning wreckage ended up on a road outside the perimeter of the airport.

The plane was on its way to Misrata on the Libyan coast.

Malta International Airport has been temporarily closed until the debris is cleared, with over a dozen flights delayed or cancelled, according to a notice on the airport website.