January 30, 2010
Because of recent heavy rains which have caused massive flooding and mudslides in the Andes Mountains, tourists visiting Machu Picchu have been stranded for over a week, and at least seven people have died. The government sent in military helicopters (thirteen of them) to evacuate those who wanted to leave, and they finally have completed their mission, making 268 flights back to the city of Cuzco, about 30 miles away. It was a truly massive undertaking. A state of emergency was declared in the departments (provinces) of Cuzco and Apurimac. There are very few roads in that region because of the extremely rough terrain, and the only way into the town of Aguascalientes (located about a mile from the mountain-top archeological site) is a single railroad line. Until mud has been cleared away and repairs have be made, that rail line will remain closed. See CNN.com.
Fortunately, the ruins of Machu Picchu itself have not been damaged by all the rain, but 4,689 homes in the region have been destroyed. See La Republica, which reports that 1,460 people were evacuated. I expect, however, that Machu Picchu will be closed to tourists for as long as it takes to repair all the trails among the various parts of that ancient "lost city." Many Peruvians say they cannot recall such an intense, devastating rain storm in their country, and this will no doubt add fuel to the fire of the debate over global climate change.
Jacqueline and I traveled to Machu Picchu a few years ago, and our hotel was right along the river, so I assume it has suffered heavy damage, at least. Click on the adjacent photo montage to see a gallery of photos from our trip there.
And you thought we had bad weather here in the U.S.A.! Today's snowstorm has dumped about six inches of white stuff in this part of the Shenandoah Valley.