Peruvian firefighters were struggling Thursday to contain a wildfire near the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu as flames threatened to encircle the ancient city high in the Andean mountains.

The fire, which affected an area about half the size of Vatican City, was started on Tuesday by farmers burning grass and debris to prepare for planting new crops.

As of Wednesday, some 20 hectares had been affected by the fire, the mayor of the nearby city of Cusco said.

Machu Picchu, a mountaintop complex of stone structures, was built more than 500 years ago by the Incas, whose empire controlled large swathes of South America, from present-day southern Ecuador to central Chile.

The remoteness of the fire has hampered firefighters’ efforts.

“We have been fighting the forest fire for two days now and it has not been possible to control it, since the area is quite inaccessible,” said Roberto Abarca, director of Cusco’s risk management and security office.

The impressive ruins, which have made the Cusco region the main tourist destination in Peru, are considered one of the new seven wonders of the world.

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