Essendon Airport Australia crash
A view from the tarmac at Melbourne's Essendon Airport after a charter plane leaving the airport crashed on 21 February 2017 Getty

Five people are confirmed dead after a light aircraft crashed in Melbourne, Australia.

The plane took off from Essendon airport at 9am local time (10pm GMT) on Tuesday (21 February), but suffered engine failure shortly after taking off.

The pilot, believed to be in his 60s, made a mayday call before crashing into a local shopping centre, next to a busy motorway in the heart of the east Australian city.

Over 60 firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze after the plane punched a hole in the side of the building, also setting fire to nearby cars.

Black plumes of smoke could be seen from miles away as emergency services worked to get the fire under control.

Once the fire was out, police confirmed the deaths of all five people aboard.

"A number of people have died as a result of what is the worst civil aviation accident that our state has seen for 30 years," assistant police commissioner Stephen Leane said, reported 7 News.

"The advice we have is no fatalities other than the aircraft itself. There were five people on the aeroplane, and at this stage it looks like nobody has survived the crash."

Four of the five are believed to be American tourists who were travelling to King Island, where a number of luxury golf courses lie.

Witnesses have described the horrific scene from the surrounding roads.

"There are constant explosions going off, there is black smoke billowing into the sky," one caller told local radio channel.

Another witness, Paul, said the scene was "like the vision you see of an atomic bomb".

"Just a ball of flame going up in the air," he said, reported News Australia. "It was just surreal to see it happening right next to you."

Angelo Tsatas, a DFO employee where the plane struck, was among the first on the scene and did all he could to help until emergency services arrived.

"I screamed out to the guys, 'A plane's gone down'!" he told 7 News Online. "We grabbed some fire extinguishers and ran over, [but] it was too hot by the time we got there.

"We tried to get to the cockpit, the flames were too intense, tyres were exploding... two cars were on fire."