Tourists stranded at Machu Picchu amid protests in Peru
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Some 300 tourists from around the world have been stranded in the ancient city of Machu Picchu, according to the mayor, after Peru plunged into a state of emergency following the ouster of the country’s president.
Former President Pedro Castillo he was indicted and subsequently arrested in early December after announcing his plan to dissolve Congress. Riots sparked by his arrest have prompted international warnings about travel to Peru.
Darwin Baca, the mayor of Machu Picchu, said Peruvians, South Americans, Americans and Europeans are among the stranded travelers.
“We have asked the government to help us and set up helicopter flights to evacuate tourists,” Baca said Friday. The only way in and out of the town is by train, and these services are suspended until further notice, he said.
In a ray of hope for those affected, a statement released late Friday by the Machu Picchu Municipal District said the stranded tourists were expected to be evacuated on Saturday.
“The municipality, through the Tourism Unit, carries out the necessary coordination for the selection and prioritization of children and vulnerable people for the transfer on humanitarian flights, work that has been carried out in coordination with the National Police and the district Health Center ”, the statement said.
Trains to and from Macchu Picchuthe main means of access to the UNESCO World Heritage site, stopped on Tuesday, according to a statement from PeruRail, Peru’s rail operator in the southern and southeastern regions of the country.
“PeruRail said that they are still reviewing the situation,” Baca explained.
The United States is in contact with US citizens stranded in Peru, a State Department spokesperson told CNN on Friday.
“We are providing all appropriate consular assistance and are monitoring the situation closely. Due to privacy and security considerations, we will not provide further details on the number of US citizens who have communicated,” the spokesperson added.
The US embassy in Peru said in a statement early Friday that the Peruvian government was organizing an evacuation of foreigners from Aguas Calientes, a town that serves as the main access point to Machu Picchu.
“We will launch a message with instructions as soon as the support plan is confirmed. Travelers located in Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Village must follow the instructions of local authorities if they decide to remain in place to receive assistance with travel to Cusco, as well as any travelers who choose to travel on foot,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, Mayor Baca warned that Machu Picchu is already suffering from food shortages due to the protests and that the local economy depends 100% on tourism.
Baca urged the government, headed by the new president Dina Boluarte, to start a dialogue with the local population to put an end to social discontent as soon as possible.
PeruRail said it would help affected passengers to change their travel dates.
“We regret the inconvenience that these announcements generate for our passengers; however, they are due to situations beyond the control of our company and seek to prioritize the safety of passengers and workers,” the company said in a statement.
Peru’s transport ministry said on Friday that flights had resumed from the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco after they were temporarily suspended amid protests in the country.
“Passengers who need to travel during curfew hours will be able to use their travel tickets as safe passage,” the ministry said.
Operations to and from the Alfredo Rodríguez Ballón International Airport in Arequipa continue to be suspended.
“LATAM maintains constant monitoring of the political situation in Peru to provide the pertinent information according to how it may impact our air operation,” LATAM Airlines Peru said in a statement.
“We await the response of the corresponding authorities, who must take corrective measures to guarantee safety for the development of air operations.”
He added: “We regret the inconvenience that this situation beyond our control has caused our passengers and we reinforce our commitment to air safety and connectivity in the country.”
at least 20 people They have died in the midst of political demonstrations.
The US Department of State has issued a travel advisory for citizens traveling in Peru, listing it as a tier three destination to “reconsider travel.”
“Demonstrations can result in the closure of local roads, trains and major highways, often without warning or estimated timeframes for reopening.
“Road closures can significantly reduce access to public transport and airports and can disrupt travel both within and between cities,” it warns.
The Department of State is asking travelers in Peru to register for STEP Alerts from the US Embassy if they have not already done so.
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has also warned its citizens about the situation.
“British citizens should take extra care to avoid all areas of protests. If possible, you should stay in a safe place. … You need to plan ahead for a serious disruption to any plan.” the FCDO said Friday night on your website.
He also told travelers arriving in the capital Lima that there was no possibility of travel to or from many regional areas, including Cusco and Arequipa, and further disruption was possible.
British citizens were also warned to respect the curfews in place in Peru and to monitor local news and social media for more information.
Canada’s Department of Global Affairs has warned its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution” in Peru and to avoid non-essential travel in many regions. Canada Global News spoke with a Canadian trapped in the small town of Ica in southern Peru, who said he is now far from civil unrest, but was robbed in a taxi.
Amy Madden, an American traveler in Peru, recounted a long journey she and other stranded tourists made through the country’s Sacred Valley in an attempt to leave the area after days of unrest.
The trip included a scare when his tour group had to stop at a makeshift roadblock in a town near Ollantaytambo on Friday, he told CNN via text message.
Once the tourists got out of the van, a group of a dozen men and a few women attacked the empty vehicle, he said, with one man using a scythe to cut the tires. She and the other tourists escaped and were not harmed, she added. Later another truck picked them up and took them to Ollantaytambo.
Madden said he had now safely reached Cusco and was looking, without much luck, for flights out of the country.
Although she feels safe right now, she is restless. “It’s just a lot of unknowns,” she said.
Another American tourist who is stuck in Machu Picchu has run out of medicine and is not sure when she will be able to leave the small town and get more, she told CNN.
Florida resident Kathryn Martucci, 71, was on a group trip with 13 other Americans when Peru entered a state of emergency, she said.
According to Martucci, his travel group was unable to catch the last train out of the small town before the railway was discontinued.
Her son Michael Martucci, who lives in the United States, also spoke to CNN and has been trying to help his mother find a way out.
“They’ve been there since Monday, and now she and the other people she’s with are running out of the medicine they need,” Michael Martucci said. “There is nothing in the small town that they are trapped in. They are safe and have food luckily, but there is no way to get more medicine.”
Kathryn Martucci said her group was scheduled to stay at Machu Picchu for two days, so they were told to pack light and only bring a two-day supply of medicine.
On Friday morning, Martucci said his tour guide took his group to City Hall for medical evaluation in the hope that local officials would understand their situation and help them find a way out.
“There were about 100 tourists in line and we waited two hours before seeing the doctor,” Martucci said. “They told me that I was a priority and that they were going to try to take me out of Machu Picchu in a helicopter in the next two days.”
However, Martucci isn’t sure if that will happen, she told CNN.
“There are several people who need help and a helicopter can only carry 10 people. We don’t know what’s going on.”
CNN’s Forrest Brown and Sharif Paget contributed to this report.