Massive Flooding Cripples Southern Peru

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The Peruvian government has airlifted 3,900 villagers and tourists from a tourist destination in southern Peru after they were stranded after a week of torrential rains and mudslides. The storm crippled much more than the tourism industry, and the impact will be felt for a long time to come.

Last week, the world saw images of Western tourists being evacuated as flooding hit the popular tourist destination of Macchu Pichu. What they did not see was the devastation it caused for the residents of the so-called "Sacred Valley" below.

Overflowing rivers crashed into villages and farmlands, demolishing houses and leaving the region's economy in shambles. An estimated 7,000 homes collapsed or were damaged by floodwaters and mudslides, leaving over 60,000 people homeless.

In the city of Cusco, Pastor Wilfredo Montt said he and his fellow pastors witnessed tragedy everywhere, but churches have mobilized to meet the need.

"If there is some good we can find in this, it's that in these days we've been able to see the unity and support of the christians," Montt said. "It's amazing how churches in Lima and elsewhere have stepped up to meet the needs of our brothers here in Cusco. The church in Cusco as well has begun to mobilize. In our church, the response has been surprising, how the believers have brought donations from the little they may have."

Missionary Ron Shultz has worked in the Cusco region for many years.

"What we're thinking is, and what we've already heard, some interest has been in short term missions teams coming down for a week, two weeks,and maybe focusing on a particular family and doing what they can to help that particular family get a roof over their heads again," Shultz said.

Many Peruvian farmers and workers in the tourist trade have lost their source of income. The hundreds of stranded tourists flown out of Machu Pichu may be the last to visit, until roads, railways and accommodations can be rebuilt.

That is a challenge and priority for Martin Perez, Peru's Minister of Tourism.

"We have hundreds of thousands of people in Cusco that work in the tourism industry," Perez said. "In Machu Picchu, there are 3,000 people that live off tourism and there is another 3,000 people that come from Cusco that also depend on it."

Fortunately, the ancient Incas built their fortress at Machu Pichu out of massive stones. It remains undamaged by the weather.

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Stan Jeter

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CBN News Senior Producer Stan Jeter specializes in Christian news and Latin American coverage.  He has lived and worked for many years in South and Central America, most recently developing the Spanish Christian news program, Mundo Cristiano.  Follow Stan on Twitter @StanJeterNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/StanJeterCBN.