Peru used helicopters to airlift foreign tourists trapped by rain and mudslides that killed seven people in and around its famed Machu Picchu ruins, but frustrations grew among the more than 2,500 still stranded.
The operation, which began Monday, by late Tuesday had rescued 125 of the foreigners, most of whom were waiting by a helipad near the ruins themselves, emergency services said.
But another 1,900 were stranded in nearby Aguas Calientes and 670 more on the Inca Trail, a narrow Andean pathway up to Machu Picchu that takes four days to complete and which was cut in several places by landslides.
“People are sleeping in the street square, they are sleeping in gyms, in schools, on trains, in makeshift tents. People are just distressed,” Julie Nemcich, 29, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from Aguas Calientes.
A 23-year-old Argentine tourist and a 33-year-old Peruvian mountain guide died on the trail, buried under mudslides, the National Culture Institute in the nearby town of Cusco said.
The other fatalities occurred along the valley leading to Cusco and in the town itself. Two Peruvian men drowned in the valley’s swollen river, another died in a landslide, and a mother and her child were killed in Cusco when heavy rainfall made their home collapse, emergency officials said.
Some 400 Americans were among the stranded near Machu Picchu, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in Washington.
The US embassy in Peru has sent four helicopters — usually used as part of anti-drug efforts — to help with evacuation efforts, he said.
“We are very grateful for the efforts of the government of Peru in trying to help with the evacuation of American citizens near Machu Picchu,” he said.
In Sydney, Australia’s foreign office said up to 170 Australians were among those stranded.