Tourists Evacuated from Famous Ruins in Peru
Heavy rains caused flash floods and landslides in the area, closing roads, bridges, and rail lines. Tourists from the world over were stranded in Aguas Calientes, a small town close to the ruins. Normally, the tourists reach Machu Picchu by train from the nearest major town, Cuzco, but landslides blocked the railway.
It took four days for 13 helicopters to ferry the visitors in 268 flights to Cuzco, said Tourism Minister Martin Perez in a report run by CNN on January 29th. Evacuations ended late on Friday.
The Peruvian Government declared a state of emergency in Cuzco and Apurimac, two regions around Machu Picchu. It is estimated that 10,000 people have been affected by the torrential rains, which devastated farmland, roadways and bridges, and ruined around 2,000 homes. Varying reports say anywhere from seven to 20 people have died, and at least five more are missing.
"The good news is that Machu Picchu, along with all the ancient sites, is intact," Carlos Millas, president of the chamber of commerce in Cuzco, told the AFP.
The ruins, which sit nearly 8,000 feet above sea level in a tropical mountaintop forest, have been declared a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
It is expected that Machu Picchu will be closed for two months while the roads and railways are fixed.