Over 50 000 people have been directly affected by floods in Venezuela [AFP]

Flooding and landslides triggered by torrential rains have killed at least 21 people in Venezuela over the last week.

Thousands fled their homes on Tuesday as swollen rivers and continuing rain threatened to cause more damage.

"The rains will carry on for the next three days at least," Elias Jaua, the vice-president, told state television.

Most of those killed died in landslides, while others were swept away by a river that burst it's banks.

The government has declared an emergency in three states and in the capital, Caracas, cancelling school and opening hundreds of storm shelters.

Long lines formed in poor Caracas neighbourhoods as officials registered families to be housed in temporary accommodations including hotels and government offices.

Mudslides have toppled dozens of houses, crushed cars and blocked roads.

The oil-producing state of Falcon has been particularly hard hit by flooding, and the military has been dispatched to aid victims.

Officials said the storms caused a power outage on Monday that stopped operations at the Cardon oil refinery, and similar problems shut down some units at the adjacent Amuay refinery.

The government said the heavy rains during November, which have continued past the usual end of the wet season, have caused troubles for more than 50,000 people nationwide.

Source: Agencies