TORRENTIAL rains and landslides trapped about 2,000 tourists, including Slovaks and Czechs, at Machu Picchu, the Inca fortress in the Peruvian part of the Andes Mountain range. No one was able to depart the popular tourist destination as the local railway was not functioning and that is normally the only means of transport between the ancient site and the nearest city, Cuzco.
Czech and Slovak visitors were lodged at local hotels while others waited at the railway station. The landslides killed two people and caused much damage to the archaeological sites, the ČTK newswire wrote.
Two days after the floods, on January 27, the first three Slovak customers of Bubo travel agency were evacuated by helicopter to Cuzco, Ľuboš Fellner, the travel agency’s head, told the SITA newswire.
Eight helicopters were used in the evacuation, but the rescue operation was slowed by fog. About 10 Slovak visitors were stranded in a small tourist train that could not leave because of damaged tracks, but the remaining 27 Slovaks were safe and dry at a hotel. By January 29, all Slovak and Czech tourists had departed from Machu Picchu and were able to continue their trip to see the most famous Latin American monuments and sites.
“The group celebrated their unbelievable adventure in Cuzco and then continued to Lake Titicaca and then to join the carnival in Rio de Janeiro,” the group’s tour guide said.
The Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned people to seriously reconsider any travel to the locality of Machu Picchu, as further landslides are possible. “Repeated landslides might be looming,” said ministry spokesman Peter Stano, adding that people should generally be very careful about visiting this locale during the rainy season from December to April. Stano confirmed that, by January 29, all tour participants of the Bubo travel agency had left the disaster site.
In addition to the two fatalities, the landslides caused much damage to the archaeological monuments near Cuzco, which once was the Inca capital. The spokesman of the Peruvian railways announced that the landslides had caused damage to the rails, operations had been suspended, and extensive repairs were required.
The Peruvian Tourism Minister, Martín Peréz, assured the world that even when stranded the tourists were safe and had food supplies for at least four days. The “forgotten city” of Machu Picchu is a popular tourist destination 2,400 metres above sea level and has 500,000 annual visitors.
8. Feb 2010 at 0:00 | Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská