Rains strand 2,000 tourists at Machu Picchu ruins

LIMA, Peru – Heavy rains and mudslides in Peru blocked the train route to the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu on Monday, keeping nearly’2,000 tourists stranded.

The government declared an emergency in the region Monday and evacuated’20 elderly and ill tourists by helicopter from the village of Machu Picchu Pueblo near the ruins, Lima’s CPN’radio said.

Government officials said’1,954 tourists had been’stranded in the village.

‘Many people have run out of dollars and are begging for food or water for their children or for accommodations. Others are strewn about the floor of the train station waiting,’ Mexican tourist Alva Ramirez, 40, told’The Associated Press by telephone from a hostel Monday.

Ramirez said hotels were full and turning people away in the village, a tangle of’restaurants and traveler’s hostels that has sprung up in recent years on either side of the railway. Tourists must pass through the village on their way to the ruins.

Perurail spokeswoman Soledad Caparo told the AP that train company crews were working nonstop to clear rock and mud covering the tracks, but she said flooding of the adjacent Urubamba River had slowed the cleanup.

Rains stopped Monday night and Perurail said in a’statement that service could resume Tuesday, ‘weather’permitting.’ It added that’military helicopters delivered food and water to the village and would return Tuesday.