Page last updated at 03:01 GMT, Saturday, 30 January 2010

Machu Picchu tourist airlift ends with 1,300 flown out


Tourists were airlifted by a series of helicopters

Police in Peru say they have airlifted the last of the tourists stranded near the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu after floods destroyed road and rail links.

Nearly 1,300 travellers were flown out by helicopters on Friday, a local policeman told the Associated Press.

A total of nearly 4,000 tourists and local residents have now left the area following last Sunday's heavy flooding.

The Machu Picchu site, which attracts more than 400,000 visitors a year, will be closed for several weeks.

Officials say it will take months to repair the railway that leads to the World Heritage Site high in the mountains.

Price hikes

Tourists were stranded in the town of Aguas Calientes, at the foot of the ruins, after the heavy rain severed road and rail links.

On Friday, seven helicopters - working in rotation - were ferrying out the travellers to the nearby city of Cuzco.

"Not a single tourist remains in Machu Picchu or in the town of Aguas Calientes" , said Tourism Minister Martin Perez.

Aguas Calientes in Peru, 28 Jan

The evacuation, which lasted for nearly a week, was organised by age, with the elderly and children taken first. Younger tourists - mostly in their 20s and 30s - were the last ones to leave the area.

Some tourists had to rely on locals for food after cash machines dried up and prices for some goods soared.

A number of hotels were reported to have increased prices considerably.

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 last weekend when it was blocked by one of 40 landslides in the area.

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.


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