The Washington Post
Sunday, April 11, 2004; Page A23

Mudslides Near Machu Picchu Kill at Least 6, Strand Hundreds

Associated Press
LIMA, Peru, April 10 -- Heavy rains triggered mudslides near the famed Incan citadel of Machu Picchu in southern Peru on Saturday, killing at least six people. Five others were missing and feared dead.

Some 400 tourists were stranded when the mudslides buried a rail line and destroyed seven houses in the town of Aguas Calientes, below the citadel. The rail line is the only route in or out of the town.

President Alejandro Toledo was at Machu Picchu, about 300 miles southeast of the capital, Lima, when the mudslide hit and was coordinating rescue efforts, a Government Palace communique said.

"I have given urgent instructions to repair the rail line to reestablish transit," Toledo told Radioprogramas radio. "I know that we cannot give back life, but we will do everything at least to recover the bodies."

Hector Olivera, a town councilman, told radio reporters later that six bodies had been recovered and that some 1,000 to 1,500 feet of rail track had been buried.

At the time, Toledo was in the area acting as a tour guide for the Discovery Travel Channel, which is filming a special on Peru.

No foreigners were believed injured by the pre-dawn mudslide, which fell into the Alcamayo River, but between 300 and 400 tourists were stranded, Carlos Cuaresma, regional president of the Incan capital, Cuzco, told Canal N television.

A family of six was buried in their house and four laborers who worked along the river were missing, he said. The identity of the other person missing, and presumed dead, was not known.

Toledo said he had ordered government helicopters to airlift the stranded tourists back to Cuzco.

© 2004