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Mudslides in Peru trap Irish backpackers

TEN Irish backpackers have been caught in the devastating mudslides which have left 2,000 tourists stranded in Peru.

Last night they were waiting to be evacuated out of the Machu Picchu area by helicopter and were understood not to be in any immediate danger.

However, poor weather has hampered rescue efforts and authorities have warned it could be several days before everyone is airlifted out.

The backpackers, all aged in their 20s and 30s, are spread between three or four groups of tourists who were trapped in villages on the famed Inca trail high in the Andes mountains.

Five days of torrential rain have destroyed bridges and thousands of homes are now under flood waters. Mudslides have blocked the railway to the city of Cuzco, the main means of transportation to the Inca site.

The mudslides have already claimed at least fives lives, among them an Argentinian tourist and a Peruvian guide who were inside their tents when a slope gave way crushing them. Three other tourists have been injured on the trail.

An airlift operation is under way to rescue some 2,000 tourists from the villages of Machu Picchu Pueblo and Aguas Calientes. However, fleets of helicopters have so far only been able to rescue 475 of them.

The elderly and injured are being prioritised and the Irish backpackers are now awaiting their turn.

It is hoped that, if conditions are suitable, as many as 800 tourists will be rescued today.

The Department of Foreign Affairs last night confirmed it was offering consular assistance to 10 Irish backpackers on the Inca trail.

"They are not in any danger and nobody has been injured," said a spokesperson.

Irish Independent