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Page last updated at 10:49 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Peru begins airlift of stranded Machu Picchu tourists

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Elderly and ill tourists were the first to be evacuated

Peru's authorities have begun the airlift rescue of some of nearly 2,000 tourists stranded by heavy rains near its top attraction, Machu Picchu.

The government declared an emergency in the area on Monday and has evacuated 20 tourists from the village of Machu Picchu Pueblo near the famous ruins.

Days of heavy rains triggered up to 40 landslides, one of which blocked the railway between Machu Picchu and Cuzco.

Two people are reported to have died when a mudslide destroyed their home.

The train to the city of Cuzco is the only means of transport on the last leg of the trip to the ruins, and has been suspended since Saturday when it was blocked by a landslide.

That was one of many landslips which have blocked roads and destroyed homes in the region.

Ruins of the Inca city of Machu Picchu (file image)
Landslides have cut off access to the world-famous ruins

Hotels in Machu Picchu village are said to be full and some of the stranded tourists have been waiting in the train station, while reports said others slept on the streets on Sunday.

Peru's Tourism Minister Martin Perez said that some 10 helicopters would help in the rescue, the Efe news agency reported. Some have already delivered food and water to the village.

Perurail, the company that runs the train line to Machu Picchu, said it was working non-stop to clear the rock and mud covering the tracks to open access to the village. They are hoping to resume service on Tuesday.

The company also said it was providing stranded passengers with meals on Monday and Tuesday morning, with support from a local hotel.

Swollen rivers

The heavy rains have caused the deaths of two people - one of them a baby - killed when their home was hit by a mudslide.

Hundreds of hectares of crops, mostly maize, were destroyed when rivers broke their banks.

The authorities in Cuzco have declared a state of emergency in the south-eastern region of the country where they say up to 3,000 people have had their homes destroyed by floods and landslides.

The historic centre of Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire, has also been damaged.

A colonial-era house has collapsed and last week part of the Sacsayhuaman, the Inca fortress which flanks the city, was damaged by the intense rains.



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