Peru flood: Tourists airlifted

2010-01-25 22:31

Lima - Some 2 000 tourists from Europe, the United States and Latin America who were trapped by flash flooding in southern Peru will be ferried out by helicopter, the government said on unveiling the unprecedented operation on Monday.

The tourists will be airlifted in about six military or police helicopters from the badly-hit town of Aguas Calientes, the closest access point to the sacred Inca city of Machu Picchu.

They will be taken by helicopter to Ollaytaytambo and then by train on to the city of Cusco, the former capital of the Inca empire and a tourism mecca in Latin America, Commerce and Tourism Minister Martin Perez said.

Since heavy rains triggered mudslides and washed out roads on Sunday, "tourists have been stuck in hotels, inns and at the train station" in Aguas Calientes, he added.

Children and the elderly will have priority seating aboard the helicopters.

Access to ruins in Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes has been blocked since Saturday following landslides and swollen rivers that severed the rail line linking Cusco with the ruins.

British-owned PeruRail, which operates the train service, said the rail line would remain closed between Cusco and Machu Picchu, although clearance work was scheduled.

The Cusco region was placed under a state of emergency.

Commercial flights between Lima and Cusco were also suspended, causing heavy congestion at Lima's main airport.

The overflowing Vilcanota and Rio Blanco rivers in the area have flooded about 50 homes and destroyed hundreds of hectares of maize crops.

Hundreds of cargo trucks and long-distance passenger buses were also halted on two major highways.

Read more on:    peru  |  floods
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