Chile's government has declared a state of emergency for the Atacama desert region in the country's north after flooding from heavy rain.

Deputy interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy said Wednesday that no deaths have been reported but at least one person is missing.

The swollen Copiapo River has forced the evacuation of people as officials fear mudslides. TV images showed images of flooding reaching a hospital in Copiapo city.

People living on the river shores are being rescued by helicopter because roads have been blocked by water and mud. Aleuy said some have refused to leave their homes despite the danger.

The state of emergency was issued to be able to get all resources possible to rescue those affected.

President Michelle Bachelet is expected to fly to the flood-hit areas soon.