A bus has plunged off a ridge in southern Brazil, killing at least 49 people, authorities have said.

Among the dead were eight children and 24 women, regional government spokeswoman Ana Paula Keller told AFP news agency on Sunday.

The toll had initially been put at about 30 but the number rose throughout the night as rescuers continued to find bodies at the difficult-to-access crash site in Santa Catarina state, and other victims succumbed to their injuries at a nearby hospital.

Rescue workers were still trying to reach any survivors but access to the crash site in Santa Catarina state was difficult, a local government spokesman told AFP news agency on Saturday, stressing that the toll could still rise.

Santa Catarina is 1,700km from capital Brasilia [Al Jazeera]

The tour bus carrying 50 people plunged 400 metres (1,300 feet) into a wooden ravine as night fell, complicating search efforts, the spokesman said.

The driver is believed to have lost control of the vehicle on the curvy stretch of highway, but the cause was still under investigation.

Emergency crews rescued 12 people who survived. They were taken to hospital for treatment.

"There are people out there, on the hill, in the bus, trapped in the wreckage. But the chance of finding someone alive are pretty slim," Colonel Nelson Coelho said in a statement.

Source: Agencies