Image: People take refuge in a bus station
Fernando Llano  /  AP
People take refuge in a bus station during flooding in Rio Chico, north central Venezuela, on Dec. 4. Flooding and landslides unleashed by the rains over the last two weeks have killed at least 32 people and forced more than 5,000 Venezuelans from their homes, Venezuela's Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said Friday.
updated 12/5/2010 12:40:49 PM ET 2010-12-05T17:40:49

Deadly floods and mudslides caused by torrential rains prompted authorities to evacuate hundreds more Venezuelans from high-risk regions Sunday and stoked fears that voters would abstain from important elections in 11 cities and two states.

Meteorologists forecast more rain in several of the states hit hardest by a weeks-long deluge. Vice President Elias Jaua announced that a dam overflowed in western Zulia state, but he called for calm, saying the incident had not caused any deaths and noting that 300 people living in villages below the dam had been evacuated.

"It's not going to have significant consequences," Jaua said.

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Meanwhile, dozens of towns across Colombia remained flooded over the weekend, as the Colombian Red Cross noted that the number of impacted people had topped 1.5 million.

An exceptionally wet rainy season has caused floods and landslides that have killed at least 174 people so far. Nineteen Colombians are listed as missing.

Meteorologists attribute the rise in precipitation over the country to the "La Nina" climatic phenomenon, which is caused by a cooling of adjacent waters in the Pacific Ocean.

Story: Colombia floods: 174 die, 1.5 million impacted

In Venezuela, the floods and mudslides unleashed by more then two weeks of steady rain throughout much of this South American nation ave left more than 5,000 Venezuelans homeless. At least 75,000 people have taken refuge at hundreds of shelters, authorities said.

Floods and landslides unleashed by rains over the past two weeks have killed at least 34 people.

The government has declared a state of emergency in the capital and three states: Miranda, Vargas and Falcon. Rains also pounded the western states of Zulia, Trujillo, Merida and Tachira on Saturday. The heavy rains have continued even though the country's wet season usually ends in mid-November.

Marcos Duran, a forecaster at the National Meteorology Institute, told Union Radio that a storm off Venezuela's coast was expected to bring rains Sunday to numerous states, several of which have already been hit hard.

Sumate, a local nongovernmental organization that monitors elections, has expressed concern the rains would keep voters away from balloting for governors in two states and mayors in 11 municipalities, including Maracaibo, the South American country's second-largest city.

"This situation will undoubtedly have negative effects regarding the participation of voters," Sumate said in a statement issued Saturday.

In Margarita Island, more than 200 families were evacuated from a town near the San Juan River, which overflowed its banks, said Wolfang Diaz, an official with Venezuela's emergency protection agency. Diaz told the Globovision television channel on Sunday that early-morning rains caused mudslides nearby, clogging dikes and prompting the river's water levels to swell.

National Guard troops and federal police planned to evacuate 360 families from the hillside slum of Nueva Tacagua, located on the outskirts of Caracas, National Guard Cmdr. Luis Mota Dominguez told the state-run ABN news agency.

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"We are currently preparing the way to attempt to fly in with Russian helicopters," Mota Dominguez was quoted as saying.

Enrique Mendoza, an opposition politician, said water levels reached almost 5 feet (1.5 meters) in Higuerote, a town located alongside Venezuela's Caribbean coast, flooding surrounding highways and roads, thereby isolating the town in central Miranda state. Miranda is among several states that have been hit hard by the heavy rains.

"There's no way to get into the town," Mendoza said in an e-mail.

Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles Radonski told Globovision on Saturday that more than 4,600 of the state's residents had been left homeless.

Political foes of President Hugo Chavez have charged that his government's response to the floods has been lackluster and that he has failed during his 11-year rule to meet rising demand for low-income housing. Consequently, increasing numbers of poor Venezuelans have been forced to live in ramshackle slums ringing major cities, they say.

"There are no longer any excuses for this unprecedented failure," prominent opposition politician Julio Borges said Sunday.

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