A stampede on a bridge outside a Hindu temple has killed at least 60 people in India and dozens more may have died after they leapt into the water below, police say.

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“Sixty people are confirmed killed and the figure could reach 100,” said local Deputy Police Inspector General D.K. Arya.

“More than 100 others have been injured” in the disaster in the Datia district of central Madhya Pradesh state, he added.

Arya said the stampede was triggered by rumours the bridge might collapse after being struck by a heavy vehicle around lunchtime.

“There were rumours that the bridge could collapse after the tractor hit it,” he said.

“Many people are feared to have fallen into the river and are unaccounted for.”

Other police sources said that some 20,000 people were on the bridge over the River Sindh when the stampede broke out.

Large crowds began converging on the site from early morning, according to witnesses.

Up to 400,000 devotees were already inside or around the temple in Datia district, which is around 350 kilometres north of the state capital Bhopal, when the stamped happened.

NDTV, an Indian television network, cited sources at the scene as saying the situation was exacerbated by police charging at the crowds with heavy wooden sticks known as lathis.

However Arya insisted “there was no baton-charge” by the police.

The Times of India reported that crowds could seen pelting police with stones as frustration grew over the rescue operation.

Efforts to reach the injured and ferry them to hospital were being hampered by the huge volume of traffic in the area.

A team of around 20 medics had however managed to reach the scene of the tragedy and the casualty wards of nearby hospitals were being emptied to cope with the influx of victims, the newspaper added on its website.

Hindus are celebrating the end of the Navaratri festival, dedicated to the worship of the Hindu goddess Durga, which draws millions of worshippers to temples especially in northern and central India.

India has a long history of deadly stampedes at religious festivals, with at 36 people trampled to death back in February as pilgrims headed home from the Kumbh Mela religious festival on the banks of the river Ganges.

Some 102 Hindu devotees were killed in a stampede in January 2011 in the state of Kerala while 224 pilgrims died in September 2008 as thousands of worshippers rushed to reach a 15th-century hill-top temple in Jodhpur.