Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mudslide near Machu Picchu

Mudlsides triggered by torrential rains near Machu Picchu have stranded nearly 2,000 travelers and have damaged homes and businesses as well as knocking out transportation to and from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes at the base of Machu Picchu. Five people have lost their lives, including an Argentine tourist and her guide were killed while in their tent on the Inca Trail. The Peruvian military and several private companies have sent in helicopters with relief supplies and to transport people out. The US government has also sent four helicopters they have based in Peru to assist in the effort. Continued rain has hampered the evacuation.
"It's worrisome. We didn't think it would take this long," Tourism Minister Martin Perez told Lima's RPP radio. "We can evacuate 120 tourists per hour; now the only thing we need is for the climate to help us out a little bit." Meteorologists forecast moderate rain for the rest of the week.

Urubamba River

Waiting for evacuation

Schools will be opened to house those unable to get into the already full hotels. Free health care, food and water will be provided and tourists have organized themselves into teams of volunteers to distribute food and aid. One restaurant is offering free food and several hostels have lowered their rates. In Cuzco, Telefonica, the Peruvian phone company, has made pay phones free of charge so people can notify loved ones.

While this was nothing on the scale of Haiti it does show how a rapid response by the authorities and people’s willingness to work together can lessen the stress and trauma of a natural disaster. Peru is hoping to have Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes again open for visitors to the majestic area in three weeks.



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