Rescuers braved lashing snow and wind Tuesday to save hundreds of bus passengers trapped for four days in a freak snowstorm high in the Peruvian Andes. Six people died in the cold.
The storm began late Thursday, dumping 5 feet of snow and trapping 10 buses with more than 400 passengers on a mountain road in Negro Mayoc, 290 miles southeast of Lima.
“The road has been cleared using trucks and heavy equipment from nearby mines and all the people trapped have been freed,” said Luis Beltran, the mayor of the city of Abancay, where 240 of the rescued passengers were brought.
About 100 people were being treated for hypothermia and pneumonia in a local hospital, radio stations reported.
Since Friday, passengers, many without winter clothing or food, huddled together for warmth on the unheated buses. Temperatures had plunged to 5 degrees below zero at night.
Five toddlers, ages 2 to 3, aboard the buses died before rescue teams arrived, civil defense chief Gen. Homero Nurena said. One adult also died, he said.
The government tried to fly in two helicopters with hot food and clothing Tuesday, but bad weather prevented them from arriving, Nurena said.
Using trucks and snowplows, civil defense teams dragged out five buses carrying more than 200 people. The remaining passengers were freed in the afternoon when the road was cleared, Nurena said.
The remote mountain road, which connects the cities of Abancay and Nazca, is more than 10,000 feet above sea level.
Peru’s national weather service said the snow and cold continued Tuesday, but with diminishing intensity. Sunshine was expected today.
Besides Negro Mayoc, snowstorms have blanketed highways across Peru’s southern mountains. Col. Oscar Morote, a civil defense official, said snow has isolated several mountain villages, and that authorities were concerned for the inhabitants, he said.
Heavy rain and winds have also hit the capital of Lima, which is located on Peru’s desert coast.