China asks Peru to rescue Chinese Taiwan tourists

08:38, January 28, 2010      

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Peruvian authorities have agreed to a request by China to airlift 20 stranded Chinese Taiwan tourists from Machu Picchu after torrential rains and mudslides closed the historic city over the weekend, embassy sources said Wednesday.

The request came after the Chinese Foreign Ministry received an emergency call from the leader of a Taiwan tourism agency who appealed for help via the Chinese embassy in Lima.

Five people were killed and about 2,000 others were stranded at the World Heritage site in eastern Peru's Andes mountains after the heaviest rains in 15 years triggered flash flooding and caused numerous mudslides.

Peruvian authorities have promised to send more helicopters to Machu Picchu to help evacuate the tourists after the heavy weather interrupted railway service between the city and Cuzco.

"Five helicopters are on standby to evacuate about 2,000 tourists stranded in Machu Picchu and an aircraft with food and support will arrive in the area shortly," Tourism Minister Martin Perez said.

The Chinese embassy said the Chinese Taiwan tourists have received drinking water and food from local authorities.

Five days of torrential rains in the Cuzco region have destroyed bridges, 250 houses, and hundreds of hectares of crops. Rail operator Perurail suspended train service Sunday.

Alberto Bisbal, disaster prevention director at Peru's Civil Defense Institute, said Perurail and the government were working to clear rocks and mud from the tracks and service might be able to resume Wednesday.

Machu Picchu, a pre-Columbian Inca ruin site located 2,430 meters above sea level, is Peru's top tourist destination. About 1 million people annually visit the site about 1,100 km southeast of Lima.

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