At least 41 people have died after an overcrowded bus that was carrying hazardous goods caught fire in central China.

The fire happened early this morning on a highway in Henan province.

The double-decker bus was taking people to southern Hunan province when it caught fire.

Five passengers and the driver were pulled out alive from the blaze, which left the bus completely charred.

A police officer said that the fire raged for two hours and completely destroyed the bodies of the victims, who would only be identified after authorities carried out DNA tests on the charred corpses.

The report said the survivors, one of whom was very seriously injured, have been rushed to hospital.

China's roads are among the world's most dangerous, with traffic and safety laws widely flouted. Drivers looking to maximise profits often load their buses with too many passengers, sometimes triggering deadly incidents.

The cause of the fire is still unclear.