A small plane crashed shortly after takeoff in the northeastern Brazilian city of Recife, killing all 16 people on board, aviation officials said Wednesday.

"The human and material loss was total," Brazil's air force said.

The pilot of the twin-engine aircraft, operated by Brazilian airline Noar Linhas Aereas, sent out a distress signal and said he would attempt an emergency landing before the plane crashed into a vacant lot near the Recife airport and subsequently exploded.

Aviation officials said the pilot tried to land on the Boa Viagem beach in Recife, but the plane plunged to the ground a short distance away after it was steered clear of some buildings.

Firefighters said the explosion totally destroyed the plane and left the crash victims' bodies completely charred.

According to a statement from the airline, the pilot declared the emergency shortly after the plane took off at 6:51 a.m. Wednesday from the Recife airport on a flight to the northeastern city of Natal.

"The airplane crashed in a vacant lot between the (Recife) neighborhoods of Piedade and Boa Viagem, with total human and material loss," the statement said.

The Czech-made LET L-410 turboprop had the capacity to carry 19 passengers.

Noar, which announced the launch of an investigation into the crash, is a small regional airline that mainly provides service among the northeastern state capitals of Recife, Natal and Maceio.