Flash floods caused by torrential rains have killed at least 30 people in the Sahara Desert in Algeria, according to news reports.

Some 600 houses were destroyed and 50 people injured in the rains Tuesday and Wednesday around the historic town of Ghardaia, about 600 kilometres south of Algiers, the Algerian Press Service news agency said.

"State services are providing support to other victims," Ali Belkhir, chief public health officer, told national radio.

The Interior Ministry said three of the injured people have been hospitalized in serious condition.

A community of about 100,000 people, Ghardaia is the seat of the Mozabite people, who practise a dissident form of Islam. The town lies on the edge of the Sahara and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The storms this week caused a local wadi — or seasonal river that remains dry for most of the year — to rise up to eight metres within hours, an inundation level seen once every 100 years.

Algerian Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni was in the area directing rescue operations as part of a large disaster-response effort, the Algerian Press Service reported Thursday.

The military was deployed to prevent looting, and about 300 members of the country's national guard were assisting in the rescue, using helicopters to airlift hundreds of people, APS said. It said about 363 tonnes of food, along with 1,000 tents and 200,000 blankets, were being sent to the zone.

With files from the Associated Press