10 missing after Peru mudslide

This file photo shows Machu Picchu in southern Peru in 1997. The area was hit by severe mudslides on Saturday.Ricardo Choy Kifox / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Hundreds of tourists stranded by a mudslide near the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu left by train on a newly cleared rail Sunday, as the search continued for 10 missing Peruvians. One Peruvian has been confirmed dead.

Rescue workers found the body of a man Saturday, Civil Defense chief Juan Podesta said. In all, some 70 people were forced to leave their destroyed or damaged homes in Saturday’s mudslides, he said.

A town councilman on Saturday erroneously told reporters that six bodies had been recovered. Podesta did not explain the discrepancy.

On Sunday, the train whose track was buried in the mudslide returned tourists to the Inca capital Cuzco.

“The rail was fixed today and the train left with the remaining tourists at 4 p.m.,” Peru Rail company agent Rodolfo Valdivia told The Associated Press by telephone from Cuzco.

Hundreds of stranded tourists
No foreigners were reported missing. The pre-dawn landslide cut through Aguas Calientes into the Alcamayo River, which flows past the town. Authorities said between 300 and 400 tourists were stranded, and helicopters began to ferry them out on Saturday. Peru Rail’s Valdivia said normal train service would resume on Monday.

Heavy rains triggered two mudslides early Saturday — one plowing through the tourist town of Aguas Calientes below Machu Picchu and another burying 820 feet of rail some 6 miles down the only route out of town.

Machu Picchu was used as a refuge by the Incas, whose centurylong empire united South American cultures along the spine of the Andes from modern day Colombia to Chile. The Incas were conquered by the Spaniards who arrived in 1532. American explorer Hiram Bingham rediscovered the overgrown ruins of Machu Picchu in 1911.

The mysterious, partially reconstructed citadel in jungle-shrouded mountains, is South America’s top archaeological site. It draws 300,000 foreign visitors each year.

President Alejandro Toledo was in the area when the mudslide hit, but wasn’t injured. He was acting as a tour guide over the Easter holiday for U.S. cable station Discovery Travel Channel for an upcoming special on Peru.