Communities in Chile's northern desert region are digging houses out of the mud and working to reopen roads after floods pummeled several cities and left nine people dead.

Interior Sub-secretary Mahmud Aleuy said Friday that at least 19 people were also missing after torrential rains hit the Atacama Desert, the world's driest.

Aleuy said roads had been cut to over 40 communities, many of which did not have access to potable water or electricity.

The heavy rains on Wednesday and Thursday swelled rivers and led to flash-flooding in cities including Copiapo, Chanaral, Tierra Amarilla and Taltal, all hundreds of miles (kilometers) north of Santiago.

President Michelle Bachelet said authorities were sending medicines, including insulin, anti-hepatitis and tetanus shots, to stave off outbreaks.