Saturday Afternoon Update on the Machu Picchu Landslide

More news is coming on about Thursday morning’s landslide and what is the current situation in Machupicchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes).

Just before 6 am the Rio Alccamayo flooded its banks sending tons of water, stone, and debris down the canyon into Machupicchu Puebo on its way to the Rio Urubamba. Both railroad bridges were taken out as was a narrow concrete pedestrian bridge just above the Urubamba.

Two residents and a Mexican tourist were trapped, but rescued alive. Their condition is not known. Also, PeruRail reports that about 1200 tourists had been evacuated from km 110 which is at the edge of town and taken to Ollantaytambo. (The upper bridge to the Inkaterra Hotel was still partially usable and allowed for evacuation across the flooded river. People crossed the bridge with the support of ropes and harnesses.)

About 200 people are involved in the search for the missing 55-year-old carpenter. Heavy equipment has been requested from the Regional Government but had not arrived. Searchers had searched through his home, but at last report had not reached his carpentry workshop where he had taken refuge and called his daughter before the connection went silent.

Ten houses were completely flooded along with the train station which “was flooded with mud and stones.” Two houses were completely destroyed and about 500 people were reportedly displaced. The Inkaterra Hotel was separated form the rest of the town and suffered a great deal of damage. Photos showed the flooding reaching the second story of the hotel’s restaurant alongside the railway.

Obviously, train service to Machu Picchu is suspended.

Friends there have told me that it has been raining a lot recently. I’ve been up the Alccamayo before. There is a good trail to some waterfalls about 1 km upriver and it’s possible to go even farther as there is a little used trail that continues up into the mountains. (You can only reach it during the dry season when the water flow is minimal.) There are some very tight gorges that provide for some spectacular waterfalls along the way.

Even in the rainy season it’s not a very powerful stream, but I can’t help but wonder if the rains caused one of those “tight” areas that produces powerful waterfalls might have given way. (Think about what happens to the power of the water coming out when you squeeze a garden hose and the water pressure increases exponentially. That might be what happened upstream.)

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