Torrential rains caused a hillside to give way in central Costa Rica on Thursday, killing at least four people and burying houses, authorities said.

Two days of constant rain triggered the mudslide near the town of La Mandarina de Atenas, where 14 families are missing, said Miguel Carmon, president of Costa Rica's Red Cross.

Rescue workers were using heavy machinery and sniffer dogs to search for the missing, Carmon told reporters.

Authorities declared a state of emergency in four municipalities where rivers are close to jumping their banks and more mudslides are feared.