At least 12 people have been killed and three others injured after a chartered Boeing 737-200 plane crashed in Canada's Arctic region, police say.

The crash on Saturday happened as the aircraft was approaching the airport in Resolute Bay, home to one of Canada's most northerly communities.

Residents of the tiny hamlet in the Arctic territory of Nunavut and soldiers from a nearby military exercise rushed to the scene to try and pull survivors from the flaming wreckage.

First Air, which flies to some of Canada's most remote communities, said the plane had 15 people on board, including four crew members, and was travelling from Yellowknife, capital of the Northwest Territories.

The accident happened as Stephen Harper, Canada's prime minister, was scheduled to travel to Resolute Bay on Monday for his annual trip to the Arctic.

The injured - two adults and a child - were flown to a hospital in the territorial capital of Iqaluit for treatment, police said. One of the adults was in critical condition.

Aziz Kheraj, the owner of the South Camp Inn, in Resolute Bay, told the Associated Press news agency by telephone that his two granddaughters were on the plane, but only one of them survived.

She was airlifted to a hospital in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut.

A passerby, who saw the wreckage of the plane as she was returning to town from a camping trip, said: "It's in three different pieces. The wings are still attached. The front and back are separated. And they were picking up pieces of bodies."

An airport worker, who would not give his name, said there was a low cloud ceiling at the time of the crash. It lifted about 10 minutes later.

Police said late on Saturday that they had recovered two black boxes from the crash site, and that they were sending six forensic identification officers to Resolute.

Four of those officers will identify the deceased, the release said, while the remaining two will be dedicated to the accident investigation.

Source: Agencies