(Correction: A previous version of this story and video incorrectly referenced items already present at the airfield as crash debris.)

VALLETTA, Malta — A small turboprop airplane crashed just after takeoff early Monday morning, according to the Times of Malta.

Five people died in the fiery crash, which happened around 7:30 a.m. local time. The Times of Malta report says passengers were French military personnel on their way to Libya to conduct surveillance on human trafficking and drug smuggling.

The plane crashed near the runway and continued across a road running parallel to the airport. Bodies were strewn across the roadway just after the crash, according to local Times of Malta reporter Mark Zammit Cordina, who was one of the first people to arrive on the scene and who captured photos of the gruesome site.

Although the police aimed to discourage unnecessary traffic, it was still possible to get within a few hundred feet of the crash site. The investigation and cleanup were still ongoing five hours after the crash, although the airport reopened to air traffic at around 12:30 p.m., with planes taking off and landing directly behind the crash scene.

Malta is a small island country with a population of fewer than 500,000 citizens, which lies only 50 miles south of Italy and 200 miles north of Libya. It joined the European Union in 2004 and adopted the euro currency in 2008.

At only 122 square miles, Malta ranks as one of the smallest countries in the world. Owing to its close proximity with Africa, the nation sees a steady stream of refugees seeking asylum. Most refugees arriving in Malta don’t stay there, but move on to other EU countries once their asylum status has been approved, a process which can take 12 to 18 months.

The majority of refugees arrive from Libya, followed by Syria, Eritrea and Somalia. Malta has also offered to take in refugees from neighboring countries Italy and Greece as part of the EU-wide solution to the recent immigration crisis.