Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism, Martín Pérez, said Tuesday that Peru’s top tourist attraction, Machu Picchu, was not damaged following torrential rains, mudslides and floods that washed out roads and railroad tracks leading to the 15th Century sacred Inca citadel. Pérez told Radio Programas Peru he expects repairs of the railway to be finished in eight weeks.
“The citadel (of Machu Picchu), which I visited on Saturday after the tourists had been evacuated, was in perfect condition,” said Pérez. “The Inca knew not only how to build the drainage system, the hydraulic system is absolutely amazing. We went on Saturday and it was dry. Absolutely dry.”
Peru’s government published in the official gazette, El Peruano, on Tuesday Supreme Decree 088-2010-MTC prioritizing the repair of transportation infrastructure for two routes between Cusco and Machu Picchu, Radio Programas Peru reported. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications will be responsible for repairing the routes in order to open Machu Picchu to tourism.
The first route includes the highway between Cusco and the Hydroelectric Rail Station and then the railroad tracks from the Hydroelectric Station to the Machu Picchu Station. The second route includes the highway from Cusco to Piscacucho and a stretch of railway from Piscacucho to the Machu Picchu station.
“We expect it will take eight weeks to repair the railroad tracks and (Machu Picchu) will be able to receive tourists again,” Pérez told Radio Programas Peru. “Of course we are advancing on different fronts.”
Peru’s government announced a 60-day state of emergency in the Cusco department last week as heavy rainfalls and mudslides battered the country’s southern Andean region. The storms flooded the Vilcanota river, which blocked the railway between Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru’s sacred Inca citadel and top tourist attraction.
British-owned Perurail suspended services to Machu Picchu Pueblo – the town below the citadel – stranding some 2,000 tourists. Peru’s government sent police and military helicopters to evacuate the tourists and local residents.
Peru’s Civil Defense estimated Friday about 23,500 people had been left homeless and more than 37,000 people lost part of their property. Flooding devastated 14,000 hectares of agricultural land and destroyed 4,000 homes. Some of the property destroyed was in Machu Picchu Pueblo, where buildings were built too close to the Vilcanota river and swept away when it flooded.
“Over the years we have seen how, for different reasons, Machu Picchu Pueblo has grown out of control,” state news agency Andina reported Pérez as saying. “There are buildings, restaurants, houses and hostels practically over the river bed. It is unacceptable. We will have to find out who allowed this, because it is a crime… We have to find a solution to this urban disorder.”
Pérez said his ministry will work to promote alternative tourist attractions to Machu Picchu, which is closed until authorities repair the transportation infrastructure.
“We have to invite tourists to come to the city of Cusco because it is not affected at all… we can’t think the only reason to go to Cusco is to visit Machu Picchu,” said Pérez. Some sites that Pérez mentioned in Cusco are the Sacsayhuamán fortress, the Coricancha sun temple, and the town of Pisac, which is well-known for its colorful market.
“The emergency is over, now we have to work so that the hundreds of thousands of people that make their living from tourism begin to receive the flow of tourists that we’ve always had.”
Tourism is one of Peru’s largest sources of revenue, and Machu Picchu is the main attraction. According to the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, the 15th century Inca citadel attracted more than 850,000 tourists in 2008.