A car exploded in a South Indian village on Saturday and at least 12 people are feared dead, a senior police official said.

"The car was carrying some kind of explosive material and our forensic team is trying to determine what it was," said D. Mukherjee a senior police officer.

It is wasn't clear immediately if the blast was deliberate or an accident. Television reports said the blast occurred when a vehicle carrying cylinders of cooking gas hit another vehicle.

The blast occurred in Senthur village, 80 miles south of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state.

"There are conflicting reports on the number of dead. Earlier we got reports that 15 people were killed but now the number is around 12," Mukherjee said.