Officials in India says at least 12 people have died in a stampede at a religious shrine as pilgrims gathered to offer prayers for the new year.

The disaster happened at the Mata Vaishno Devi in Indian-administered Kashmir, one of the most revered Hindu shrines in northern India.

Before the pandemic, about 100,000 devotees would visit the site every day, but authorities have capped the daily number at 25,000.

One senior government official said: "At least 12 people lost their lives and 13 are injured.

"The toll could be higher as the route to the hilltop shrine was packed with devotees trying to do the customary new-year visit and prayers," he said.

Another disaster-management official confirmed the death toll, saying the stampede took place at about 2.45am local time.

India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, said on Twitter: "Extremely saddened by the loss of lives," adding that he was in touch with local officials.

Mr Modi said: "Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon."

Other senior officials including the Indian president offered their condolences, and the home minister called the news "heart-wrenching".

Government minister Jitendra Singh said he was on his way to the site to take stock of the situation.

Reports cited witnesses as saying that the daily limit of 25,000 was exceeded and that large groups entered without permission slips.

Other reports suggested an argument had broken out between devotees.

Rescue operations started immediately and the injured - some of who were reported to be in a serious condition - were taken to hospital.

Video footage on social media showed small ambulances with flashing lights rushing to hospitals while it was still dark.

The shrine, open 24 hours a day, is located in the Katra hills some 30km from the city of Jammu.