World News

Peru says Machu Picchu site to reopen in April

LIMA (Reuters) - The famed Incan citadel Machu Picchu is expected to reopen in April after being shut last month when torrential rains cut off most access to the ancient site, the Peruvian government said on Tuesday.

A worker repairs an access road to Machu Picchu, which was damaged by the floodwaters of Vilcanota river, after torrential rains in Cuzco, January 28, 2010. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

The heavy rains triggered mudslides that washed away parts of the only railroad that connects the mountaintop ruins with the nearby city of Cusco.

Apart from the train, the only ways to reach Machu Picchu -- the impressively intact remains of an Incan city shrouded by thick jungle -- are to trek some 28 miles through steep mountain passes, or fly by helicopter.

The Peruvian government airlifted some 4,000 travelers from the site in January after the heaviest rains in the region in 15 years stranded them and killed five people.

“The citadel is intact and we expect to open Machu Picchu on April 1,” Martin Perez, Peru’s trade and tourism minister, told reporters in Lima.

Machu Picchu, which was built in the mid-15th century and lies some 680 miles southeast of Lima, is a World Heritage Site. About a million people a year visit the ruins, which lie 7,874 feet above sea-level.

Ferrocarril Transandino, the company in charge of operating the railway, said repairs were moving forward.

The company is a unit of Orient-Express Hotels, whose shares on the New York Stock Exchange rose some 2.4 percent on Tuesday to close near $11.55.

“If the weather continues to cooperate, the railway will be finished by early April,” Ferrocarril Transandino said.

The government has estimated economic losses stemming from the drop in tourism at some $160 million.

Reporting by Teresa Cespedes and Dana Ford; Editing by Eric Walsh