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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 April, 2004, 20:51 GMT 21:51 UK
Peru mudslides hit Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
The ancient Inca citadel is the region's biggest tourist attraction
Six people have died and hundreds of tourists are trapped in Peru after mudslides near the historic ruins of Machu Picchu, authorities said.

The mudslides on Saturday morning cut off rail and road links between the Incan site and the city of Cuzco, local officials told Peruvian radio.

Several other people are missing and are feared dead, they said.

The officials appealed for help, saying the area could not be reached even by helicopter because of bad weather.

I'm with the people of Aguas Calientes, seeing their anguish and sadness
Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo was in the area when the landslides happened and was co-ordinating rescue efforts, his office said.

He was working on a TV travel programme on Peru.

The people died when an avalanche of rock and mud destroyed their homes in the town of Aguas Calientes, where one of the landslides occurred.

"I suspended all my activities to come to the zone that was hit by the avalanches," Mr Toledo said. "I'm with the people of Aguas Calientes, seeing their anguish and sadness."

Track repairs

The other slide, at the entrance to Machu Picchu, destroyed part of the railway line that carries tourists to and from the ancient citadel, 2,400m (7,782ft) high in the Andes.

No tourists were hurt or missing, officials said.

"Here in Aguas Calientes, only three houses by the river have been destroyed," said local Internet cafe owner, Luis.

"Now the situation is calm, everything is under control. Phone and fax lines are working and there is no shortage of food."

A spokeswoman for the Peru Rail company said repairs to the track had already started and it might be possible to evacuate the tourists on Sunday.

Up to 1,500 visitors were spending the Easter weekend at the historic site.

Some 400,000 people visit Peru's most famous tourist attraction every year.

The 15th century fortress, thought to have been built by the great Inca ruler Pachacutec, was rediscovered in 1911.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Steve Kingstone
"There were two mudslides in the early hours of Saturday morning"



SEE ALSO:
Peru's Toledo embraces Inca roots
30 Jul 01  |  Americas


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