Dozens of Hindu devotees returning from Sabarimala shrine were killed after a road accident sparked a stampede in Kerala on Friday, TV news channels reported.

Temple officials estimated the death toll at up to 100, Kerala Temple Affairs Minister Ramachandran Kadannappally told Reuters by phone.

Hundreds of thousands of people had gathered at the hill shrine of Sabarimala on Friday, the last day of an annual religious festival.

A bus from the neighbouring state of Karnataka carrying pilgrims back from the shrine collided with a jeep and then lost control, running over pilgrims who were walking nearby, Kadannappally said. The accident sparked a stampede.

The rescue operations are extremely difficult as the incident occurred in a dense forest where the roads are very narrow, he said.