Stranded tourists await rescue from Machu Picchu


TOURISTS VISITING the remote site of Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca city in the Peruvian Andes, are waiting to be airlifted out of the area by helicopters after torrential rain caused landslides to block the railway line which is the only major land route to the site.

Up to 40 landslides are believed to have cut the railway, a 112km (70-mile) line from the city of Cuzco which snakes its way through a narrow, steep-sided river valley. The line was cut on Saturday and may remain blocked until later this week.

Two Peruvians, one a baby, were killed when mudslides engulfed homes. The Peruvian authorities have declared a state of emergency and have designated 10 helicopters to evacuate visitors. Reports last night said some people were being airlifted from the site.

Sarah Child (25), a British tourist, has been stranded in Machu Picchu for two days. She estimated there were 1,500 tourists, mainly Australians and Americans, trapped there. Most would have expected to stay just one night at the site, which has only one hotel.

The hotel has been providing food and shelter for those marooned. Ms Child’s tour group has been put up at the hotel, but she said some people were sleeping in the city’s square.

Ms Child said reports of tourists being airlifted out were wide of the mark. She said there had been little communication from the Peruvian authorities; she had only seen two police helicopters in the past 48 hours and the only person she had seen evacuated was the city’s mayor, who was going to plead for help from the government.

“We’re running out of food and water, they’re running out of gas,” she said. “There’s no hot water, no gas to cook with.”

Ms Child said plans to bring in helicopters had been thwarted by the weather. – (Guardian service)