Hindu devotees pray on the banks of the Ganges during the Chhath festival in Patna, India, on Monday.

New Delhi - Eighteen people - 10 of them children - died in a stampede during a Hindu festival in India's eastern state of Bihar on Monday, local media reported.

The incident occurred on the banks of river Ganges in the state capital Patna as Hindu devotees were returning after offering prayers to the sun as part of the annual Chhath festival, the IANS news agency reported

A makeshift bamboo bridge at the banks had collapsed, triggering the stampede, police said. Ten of the victims were children, broadcaster NDTV said, quoting local police.

TV images showed people crying and searching for their relatives on the banks, as rescue operations continued late into Monday night.

Several injured were taken to nearby hospitals and the death toll was likely to rise as the condition of some victims was said to be serious.

An estimated 400 000 people from Patna and nearby areas had congregated on the banks for prayers. The Bihar government ordered an inquiry into the accident and announced compensation for relatives of the victims.

Chhath began on Saturday and is a major religious festival in India's northern and eastern states, celebrated over four days. Thousands of followers come to the banks of the Ganges to offer prayers to the Sun God. - Sapa-dpa