The heaviest rainfall in 80 years has caused massive flooding in the Atacama region of northern Chile and devastating landslides in Peru. The death toll in Chile currently stands at seven, with 19 others unaccounted for as the military rushed to rescue stranded villagers.

Rivers have burst their banks, flooding towns, making roads impassable and forcing miners in Chile, the world's top copper exporter, to suspend operations.

Chile Atacama floods
Locals cross a flooded area in Copiapo, ChileIvan Alvarado/Reuters
Chile Atacama floods
A child walks through a flooded street in CopiapoIvan Alvarado/Reuters
Chile Atacama floods
Aerial pictures of the flooded town of Chanaral in the Atacama region of ChileFuerza Aerea de Chile/Reuters
Chile Atacama floods
Debris blocks the main street in ChanaralIvan Alvarado/Reuters
Chile Atacama floods
A man clings to a security line to cross a street flooded by the overflowing Copiapo RiverAFP

The small coastal city of Chanaral was hardest hit by the floods and many residents are trying to cope with the loss of their homes and belongings. "Sadly we lost everything, everything, there is nothing to recover. So now we have to wait and see what there is, although you can see how little there is to rescue. To wait for the mud to go down and to be able to see what remains [of his house]," said one resident.

The city of Copiapo, home to 160,000 people is also partly cut off, with airports in both Copiapo and Antofagasta further to the north closed to commercial air traffic..

The unusual weather phenomenon was caused by a cold front hitting the Andes. Spurred by high temperatures, it produced strong rains at the high altitudes instead of snow, which swept down to valleys and towns in the foothills.

Chile Atacama floods
People cross a flooded street in CopiapoIvan Alvarado/Reuters
Chile Atacama floods
A damaged overturned car covered in mud lies on a street in CopiapoIvan Alvarado/Reuters
Chile Atacama floods
People prepare to tow a car out of the mud in CopiapoIvan Alvarado/Reuters
Chile Atacama floods
A man carries his dogs as he leaves his house in CopiapoIvan Alvarado/Reuters
Chile Atacama floods
A man removes water from his shoe as he sits on a mining truck tyre in CopiapoIvan Alvarado/Reuters
Chile Atacama floods
People walk on a road barrier on a flooded street in CopiapoIvan Alvarado/Reuters

The torrential downpours have also caused mudslides in east Peru, killing at least eight people and injuring 25 others. The country's president Ollanta Humala declared a state of emergency in an area affected by deadly mudslides east of Lima.

Heavy machinery is being used to remove mud and boulders from destroyed homes in the the district of Lurigancho Chosica as rescue teams search for survivors. Six people remain missing.

peru landslides
A house is filled with mud and rocks after a massive landslide in ChosicaMariana Bazo/Reuters
peru landslides
People try to remove mud and rocks from their house after a massive landslide in Chosica, PeruMariana Bazo/Reuters
peru landslides
Peruvian soldiers remove a rock from a house after a massive landslide in ChosicaMariana Bazo/Reuters
peru landslides
Members of the Peruvian military rest during an operation to clear mud and rocks out of a house in ChosicaMariana Bazo/Reuters
peru landslides
People hold a sign that reads: "Help, three dead relatives" on the rocks covering a house, after a massive landslide in Chosica, PeruMariana Bazo/Reuters
peru landslides
People clear debris after a massive landslide in Chosica, PeruMariana Bazo/Reuters

The Director of the weather unit at Peru's Service of Meteorology and Hydrology, Grinia Avalos, said sea temperatures have increased above normal. "During the last few weeks, the sea temperature has increased by approximately six degrees. This has caused air temperature to increase by four degrees above normal," Avalos said. These weather patterns have generated rain in the region.