Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Machu Picchu rail link closure leaves hundreds stranded

A foreign tourist is helped from a helicopter after being flown from Machu Picchu, Peru
About 120 tourists can be airlifted an hour - weather permitting

The damaged railway to Peru's top tourist site, Machu Picchu, will remain closed for three more days as workers struggle to repair it after mudslides.

Continuing heavy rain has restricted helicopter flights to collect more than 1,500 tourists cut off by mudslides.

About 600 tourists were evacuated by helicopter earlier.

With the rail link cut, supplies of food and water are limited. Bottles of water are said to be selling at five times the normal price.

The train to the city of Cuzco is the only means of transport on the last leg of the trip to the Machu Picchu ruins, and has been suspended since Saturday when it was blocked by one of 40 landslides in the area.

The only thing we need is for the climate to help us out a little bit
Martin Perez
Tourism Minister

Five people are reported to have died, including two residents killed when their home was destroyed, and a trekker crushed while sleeping in a tent.

More tourists are arriving in the Andean villages near the Inca ruins as they finish four-day treks begun before the trail was shut on Tuesday.

About 250 arrived on Wednesday, with the same number expected again on Thursday, Associated Press news agency reported, putting a strain on accommodation, food and water.

"It's worrisome. We didn't think it would take this long [to fix the rail track]," Tourism Minister Martin Perez told RPP radio, according to AP.

"We can evacuate 120 tourists per hour; now the only thing we need is for the climate to help us out a little bit."

Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde told AP: "Everyone is safe, though obviously uncomfortable. They are sleeping in tents, and the food gets there late, but what's important is that they are safe."

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