Wreckage of the plane that crashed at Charleroi airport in Belgium. Reuters
Wreckage of the plane that crashed at Charleroi airport in Belgium (Reuters)

Five members of the same family, including three children, have been reported dead after a plane crash at Charleroi airport in Belgium.

The small Cessna aircraft experienced difficulties during take-off and attempted to return for an emergency landing, but crashed at the side of the runway at about 10am local time (9am GMT), said officials.

Earlier, freezing fog created difficult flying conditions.

The family members killed include a grandfather, 78, his daughter-in-law, 39, and three children aged seven, six and three. The family is from the town of Uccle, according to local media.

Charleroi, which is near Brussels, runs a number of low cost flights from companies including Ryanair, and was closed for six hours.

The twisted wreckage of the plane could be seen from the runway, with only the rear section remaining relatively intact.

Airport spokeswoman Melissa Milioto said: "There was a problem on take-off and they tried to come back, but unfortunately the plane crashed."

She added: "Our priority is dealing with this drama."

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo expressed his condolences on Twitter, as did Didier Reynders, the country's foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

A spokesman for the airport told the broadcaster RTBF that an investigation into the cause of the crash was under way.

Charleroi is one of Brussels' two international airports, with Zaventem, and expects to handle about 140,000 passengers over the country's half-term holiday period.