Flooding closes Inca citadel

The last young backpackers have been airlifted away from Machu Picchu, leaving Peru to grapple with flood damage that will close its top tourist site for weeks, or even months.

Seven days ago, torrential rains caused mudslides and swelled the Urubamba river, stripping away long sections of the railway that is the only transportation in and out of the area around the Inca citadel. The road to the ruins also washed away.

Most villagers were packing up to head back to the nearby city of Cuzco, faced with a shutdown of Machu Picchu that some Peruvian officials said could stretch to two months – a big blow for a local economy dependent on tourism. Altogether, floods and mudslides destroyed 4,689 houses and 39,909 acres of crops and damaged nine bridges in the region.

Until Friday's evacuation, thousands of tourists were stranded, hotels overflowed, and travellers grew frustrated as weather hampered the helicopters. Shopkeepers raised prices, and food and water ran short.

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