In the wake of news about the 7.9 scale earthquake in Peru, a new disaster for the country has been revealed: the ancient city of Machu Picchu is about to fall off its mountain perch into destruction. A leading Peruvian archeologist, Dr. Frederico Kauffmann, has accused the government of failing to act on a recent Japanese survey showing that urgent action is needed to save the ancient Inca city.

According to the report, there are alarming signs that the mountainside beneath the city could give way in a potentially catastrophic landslide within the next few years. ?Machu Picchu is constructed over a place that is moving inside. It?s terrible,? says Kauffmann. ?According to the Japanese, this phenomena is going now very quickly, so if we follow the Japanese, in 5, 10 or perhaps 15 more years, we won?t have Machu Picchu any more.?

Researchers from the Disaster Prevention Research Institute at the Kyoto University in Japan set up sensitive instruments, buried in the steepest slopes around the city. They found that the ground was moving and that the movement was exaggerated by excessive rainfall, as well as construction work at a hotel beneath the site. The city itself shows evidence of problems. The Incas were master stonemasons who crafted walls out of massive blocks of granite fitted together so tightly than it?s impossible to slip a piece of paper between them. But now gaps have begun to appear in the walls, due to the earth movement beneath them.

The National Institute of Culture which administers Machu Picchu says the problem is not a drastic one. ?This is nothing new,? says the executive director Ricardo Ruiz. ?The Incas were aware of just how unstable the region was when they started building 500 years ago. They were careful to protect the city when they built the foundations, and they did such a good job that there?s very little damage to Machu Picchu until now?So for us to take radical action after a study that lasts just 2 or 3 months would be irresponsible.?

Approximately 700,000 tourists visit Machu Picchu every year, and Kauffmann is afraid that Peru is about to lose its most important treasure. ?The solution isn?t to hide the problem but to confront it, to see if the Japanese are right,? he says. ?If they are not right, then we are okay, but maybe they are right. We can?t afford to ignore them.?

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