TOVAR MUNICIPALITY, Venezuela: A child stands in front of houses destroyed by a mudslide in the town of Tovar in the state of Merida.-AFP

CARACAS: The death toll from heavy rains that triggered mudslides and floods in western Venezuela has risen to 20, local authorities said Wednesday, with 17 other people missing. Nine states are in an "emergency" situation and more than 54,000 people have been affected by the downpours, Interior Minister Remigio Ceballos told state television.

On Tuesday he warned it would continue to rain "for the next 10 days." The hardest-hit areas are in the state of Merida, where the Mocoties river burst its banks and flooded a village, cutting off electricity and telephone links.

Local official Jehyson Guzman said the number of dead had "increased today to 20"-up from 15. Heavy rains have also hit other parts of Venezuela, including the capital Caracas. The downpours have destroyed more than 8,000 homes in 11 states, according to President Nicolas Maduro, who linked the extreme weather to climate change.

Scientists say climate change is intensifying the risk of heavy rain around the world, because a warmer atmosphere holds more water. According to an international study published Tuesday, global warming made deadly floods that devastated parts of Germany and Belgium last month up to nine times more likely. - AFP