Peru blaze near Machu Picchu brought under control as firefighters battle flames for days

Peruvian Andes: Archaeologists discover 3000 year old passageways

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According to the reports, the blaze near one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites broke out on Tuesday, destroying around 100 acres of land – the equivalent of about 50 football pitches. As of Wednesday, about 20 hectares (49 acres) had been affected by the fire, the mayor of the nearby city of Cusco said.

Its remote location has also hampered efforts to contain the blaze.

Machu Picchu, a complex of stone structures sitting atop a mountain, was built more than 500 years ago by the Incas, whose empire controlled large swaths of South America from what is today southern Ecuador to central Chile.

The fire, which Peru’s culture ministry said engulfed a remote area about six miles from the spectacular high-altitude citadel, was reportedly sparked by farmers who had been clearing land to grow crops.

Roberto Abarca, director of the Cusco risk management and security office, told Reuters on Thursday: “We have already been fighting the forest fire for two days and it has not been possible to get it under control, given the area is quite inaccessible.”

But by Thursday night Peruvian authorities announced the fire had been 90 percent tamed by dozens of firefighters and police officers.

They claimed Machu Picchu itself had not been affected.

The mayor of the Machupicchu district, Darwin Baca León, told the Peruvian radio station RPP: “Thankfully, it has been possible to contain [the fire].”

The mayor admitted firefighters were still working to control some smaller outbreaks in the mountains that remained “active”.

The blaze comes as the South American tourist destination tries to recover from the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed more than 200,000 Peruvian lives.

Peru’s tourist industry and Machu Picchu went into shutdown in early 2020 as Covid ripped across the globe, claiming millions of lives and wreaking havoc on economies.

On Thursday, Peru’s culture ministry insisted tourist activities at Machu Picchu had not been affected by this week’s fire while no lives were reported to have been lost.

Machu Picchu became world-famous about a century ago after an American academic and explorer announced the “discovery” of a “lost city in the clouds”.

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Writing in the New York Times, Hiram Bingham said the stunning stone work and abundance of stone dwellings made him suspect the Andean city “might prove to be the largest and most important ruin discovered in South America since the days of the Spanish conquest”.

Mr Bingham offered the name “Machu Picchu” for the area he had rediscovered and brought to global attention.

However, a recent academic paper questioned whether that was in fact the right one.

Its authors said the UNESCO world heritage site had actually been known as Huayna Picchu, after a mountain peak above the ruins, or simply Picchu.

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