Twelve Portuguese passengers, including a seven-year-old girl, died when their minibus collided with a heavy goods truck on a road in central France.

The minibus was travelling from Switzerland to Portugal when the crash happened just before midnight.

The crash occurred in an accident black spot in Allier when the minibus swerved into the path of oncoming traffic and collided with the truck near the town of Moulins.

The driver of the minibus and the two Italian drivers of the truck survived but were injured, local authorities said.

An initial inquiry said the driver of the minibus was not under the influence of alcohol, and police have opened an investigation into the cause of the crash.

The road "is quite monotonous, the speed limit is 90km. There are those who are impatient and those who fall asleep", an official said, adding that there are only four passing zones in the area.

"They've been talking about adding a second lane for 40 years," he added.

A local village hall was being used as a temporary morgue.