Where: Lima, Peru

February 1, 2010 :Heavy rain and landslides destroyed the only land link to the ancient Inca* site of Machu Picchu in Peru’s Andes mountains. Around 20 people died in the floods, and 40,000 others were affected. This includes the 4,000 tourists who were visiting Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu is famously known as the lost city of the Incas. This architectural marvel is situated on a mountain ridge high above the Urubamba River Valley. Built in the 15th century, Machu Picchu was hidden to the rest of the world until an American explorer Hiram Bingham found the ruins in 1911. It is now the most well known symbol of the ancient empire.

Tourists visiting the site became trapped because the landslides caused by torrential rain blocked the railway line. The railway snakes its way up through the narrow, steep-sided river valley and is the only land link to Cuzco, the town which was once the heart of the Inca empire.

Most tourists would have expected to spend only a night at the Machu Picchu site, which has just one hotel. With supplies held up because of the snapped rail links, food and cooking fuel ran short at the hotel and in the nearby villages as well.

The Peruvian government sent troops by helicopter to rescue the stranded people. Argentina, Chile and the USA assisted in rescue operations, with the USA providing six helicopters for the mission. The tourists were flown out to a nearby village, from where they boarded buses. The last rescue operation was carried out by February 1, 2010.

* The Incas were the richest civilisation in the ancient Americas, though they had neither horses nor wheels. Learn more about the inca civilization