Small plane crashes into mall in Australia, casualties feared

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A private charter plane carrying 5 people has crashed into a mall near an airport in the Australian city of Melbourne, witnesses and officials say. Fires and thick plumes of smoke were visible but details are still limited.

The incident happened at about 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday when parts of the aircraft slammed into the DFO shopping mall, which is located near the end of a runway at Essendon Airport. Most of the plane crashed into a parking lot at the mall.

Victoria Police Minister Lisa Neville said 5 people were on board the Beechcraft Super King Air aircraft, which crashed while attempting to take off for a flight to King Island. It was not immediately known whether anyone survived or if anyone on the ground had been injured.

Aerial footage showed a plane wreckage engulfed in flames close to the mall, but fires and damage were also visible at several buildings of the mall, which was scheduled to open at 10 a.m. An unknown number of employees were already inside the complex.

“Emergency services are responding to a plane crash into a building near Bulla Rd in Essendon Fields just before 9am,” Victoria Police said in a brief statement. “At this stage we do not have information regarding possible casualties. Police currently evacuating area. Please avoid the area.”

Although the exact cause of the accident is still under investigation, a Victoria Police spokesman said it may have involved a “catastrophic” engine fire. “It gained [some] altitude before crashing into the back of the DFO and Focus on Furniture,” he said.

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