At least 37 people have been killed after a bus plunged into a deep ravine near a Malaysian highland resort area, police and officials say.

Authorities said the bus was carrying 53 passengers when it went off a swerving road and plunged down a steep 70-metre slope in the Genting Highlands, famed for an exclusive gambling and entertainment resort about an hour's drive from the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

"Thirty-seven are dead - 13 women and 24 men," Christopher Chong, a fire official at the scene, told AFP by phone.

The toll could rise, as 16 other passengers were injured, with hospitals reporting some in critical condition.

Bentong town police chief Mohamad Mansor Nor said he had no immediate details about the identities of the passengers on the bus.

Reports said most of the passengers were Malaysians, but hospital staff said the injured also included a Thai man and a Bangladeshi man.

Genting Highlands features Malaysia's only legal casino, which attracts thousands of domestic visitors and foreign tourists from Singapore and China every week.

Police said the bus was part of a line that regularly ferries both tourists and locals between the capital and the hill resort.

Source: Agencies