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Heavy rain leaves thousands stuck at Peru heritage site
Thursday, January 28 | 5:15 AM

I was there 8 weeks ago!

Jan 28, 2010

Heavy rain leaves thousands stuck at Peru heritage site

Floodwaters rising in Cuzco, Peru, on Tuesday. The city is near Machu Picchu, where some 2,000 tourists were left stranded by the torrential rain. --PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

LIMA: Peru yesterday scrambled helicopters to evacuate 2,000 tourists stranded in the Andes after torrential rain and mudslides killed five people and cut off access to the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.

Tourists were trapped at the World Heritage site in the jungle in eastern Peru after the heaviest rain in 15 years flooded the area over the weekend.

An Argentine tourist and a Peruvian guide were killed in separate mudslides, the government said, while two other deaths were reported over the weekend. The fifth person was killed when a hillside collapsed. The authorities hoped to evacuate up to 800 people yesterday after helicopters rescued 475 tourists earlier.

Prime Minister Javier Velasquez, who visited the area on Tuesday, said 250 homes were washed away, along with bridges and parts of several highways.

Television images showed roads completely covered by fast-moving water and fallen rock. People sought to cross swollen rivers on foot, submerged up to their chests.

'The situation is chaotic,' Machu Picchu guide Washington Farfan told Reuters by telephone from the site as tourists waited for a helicopter ride out.

Built in the mid-15th century, Machu Picchu lies 1,100km south-east of Lima and is Peru's top tourist destination. Every year, about a million people visit the site - which sits around 2,400m above sea level.

A state of emergency has been declared and train services between the Inca ruins and the nearby city of Cuzco have been suspended.

Besides the trains, the only other way to reach the site is to trek 45km through the mountains - a three- to four-day trip, on average.

'We're doing everything that's humanly possible to evacuate tourists,' Trade and Tourism Minister Martin Perez told CPN radio. He said the government was sending up to 10 helicopters to provide aid, but that their arrival would depend on the weather.

'Everyone is fighting for a place on the helicopter... The help we've received so far is not enough,' a Peruvian tour guide told CPN radio. The United States Embassy is sending four helicopters to help the 400 Americans trapped there.

People have been sleeping in Machu Picchu village's train station and its central plaza after hostels ran out of space. Restaurants have also raised prices as food supplies run down.

Travellers are angry and worried, and some are getting desperate, said town spokesman Ruben Baldeon on Tuesday.

'We have nothing to eat and have no idea as to how much longer we're going to have water,' an Argentinian tourist told CPN radio.

While the downpour has ended, meteorologists say light rain could be expected for the rest of the week. The rainy season in Peru's southern highlands is expected to last through March.


Jan 28, 2010

S'poreans among those awaiting evacuation

SINGAPOREAN siblings Seow Yi Qi, 28, and Seow Yi Xin, 24, are among the foreigners stranded in Machu Picchu.

Miss Seow, a graduate of the National University of Singapore, left Singapore on Jan 18 to join her brother, a student at Oxford University, in Britain before the two of them flew to Peru together.

There, they went on a three-day trek to Machu Picchu with a group of 12 others and a local guide.

They have been sleeping in a big outdoor field since Sunday while awaiting evacuation.

Their father, Mr Seow Kang Seng, told The Straits Times that his children's key concern is about the food supply running out.

He has been in daily contact with them via text messaging.

'My daughter is very worried and already an Argentine tourist has been killed by the flood,' he said.

'I just want them home safely soon,' he added.

When contacted, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is aware that there are five Singaporeans affected by the situation in Machu Picchu. 'The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in contact with the affected Singaporeans and is rendering the necessary consular assistance.'


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