Tourists stranded at Machu Picchu amid protests in Peru

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(CNN) – About 300 tourists from around the world have been stranded in the ancient city of Machu Picchu, according to the mayor, after Peru was placed under a state of emergency following the impeachment of the country’s president.

Former President Pedro Castillo was impeached and later arrested in early December after announcing his plan to dissolve Congress. The uproar over his arrest has prompted international warnings about travel to Peru.

Darwin Baca, the mayor of Machu Picchu, said Peruvians, South Americans, Americans and Europeans were among the travelers stranded.

“We have asked the government to help us and set up helicopter flights so we can evacuate the tourists,” Baca said on Friday. The only way in and out of the city is by train, and those services are suspended until further notice, he said.

In a ray of hope for those affected, a statement released Friday afternoon by the Machu Picchu Municipal District said 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 transfer on humanitarian flights, work that has been carried out in coordination with the National Police and the District Health Center”. said the statement.

Trains there from Machu Picchu, the main means of access to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, stopped on Tuesday, according to a statement from PeruRail, Peru’s railway operator in the southern and south- east of the country

“PeruRail said they are still reviewing the situation,” Baca explained.

The United States is in contact with American citizens stranded in Peru, a State Department spokesman 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 go into further detail about the number of US citizens who have been contacted,” he added the spokesperson

The U.S. Embassy in Peru said in a statement 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 post a message with instructions as soon as the assistance plan is confirmed. Travelers located in Aguas Calientes / Machu Picchu Village should follow the instructions of local authorities if they choose to remain in place for assistance with travel to Cusco , as well as any travelers who may choose to travel on foot,” adds the statement.

Lack of food in Machu Picchu

Meanwhile, Mayor Baca warned that Machu Picchu is already suffering from food shortages due to the protests, and the local economy is 100% dependent on tourism.

Baca asked the government, headed by the new president Dina Boluarte, to establish a dialogue with the local population to put an end to the social unrest as soon as possible.

PeruRail said it would help affected passengers change their travel dates.

“We regret the inconvenience these announcements cause our passengers; however, they are due to situations beyond our company’s control and are intended to prioritize passenger and employee safety,” the company said in a statement.

Travelers wait outside Cuzco's airport on Friday after it was temporarily closed due to protests.

Travelers wait outside Cuzco’s airport on Friday after it was temporarily closed due to protests.

Paul Gambin / Reuters

Peru’s Transport Ministry said on Friday that flights had resumed from Cusco’s Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport after they were temporarily suspended amid protests in the country.

“Passengers who need to move during the curfew hours can use their travel tickets as salconduct,” the ministry said.

Operations to and from Arequipa’s Alfredo Rodríguez Ballón International Airport remain suspended.

“LATAM constantly monitors the political situation in Peru to provide relevant information according to how it may affect our air operation,” LATAM Airlines Peru said in a statement.

“We await the response of the competent authorities, who must take corrective measures to ensure safety for the development of air operations.”

He added: “We regret the inconvenience this situation beyond our control has caused our passengers and reinforce our commitment to safety and air connectivity in the country.”

US, UK and Canadian warnings

Demonstrators clash with police during a protest this Thursday in Lima.

Demonstrators clash with police during a protest this Thursday in Lima.

Sebastian Castaneda / Reuters

The US State Department has issued a travel advisory for citizens traveling to Peru, which it has listed as a level three “reconsider travel” destination.

Demonstrations can bring local roads, trains and major highways to a standstill, often with no advance notice or estimated timelines for reopening.

“Road closures can significantly reduce access to public transport and airports and can disrupt travel within and between cities,” it warns.

The State Department urges travelers to Peru to sign up for U.S. Embassy STEP alerts if they have not already done so.

The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has also warned its citizens about the situation.

“British people should take particular care to avoid all protest areas. If possible, you should stay in a safe place. … You should plan ahead for any serious disruption to any plans,” he said on Friday evening the FCDO on its website.

He also told travelers arriving in the capital, Lima, that there was no possibility of travel from many regional areas, including Cusco and Arequipa, and that further disruptions were possible.

British citizens were also warned to respect Peruvian curfews and to monitor local news and social media for further information.

Canada’s Global Affairs department has warned its citizens to “exercise a high degree of caution” in Peru and to avoid non-essential travel to many regions. Canada’s Global News spoke to a Canadian trapped in the small southern Peruvian city of Ica, who said he is now far from civil unrest but was robbed in a taxi.

Amy Madden, an American traveler to Peru, recounted a long trek 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 road block in a village near Ollantaytambo on Friday, he told CNN via text message.

Once the tourists got out of the van, a group of about a dozen men and some women attacked the empty vehicle, he said, with one man using a scythe to slash the tires. She and the other tourists escaped and were not injured, he added. Later, another van picked them up and took them to Ollantaytambo.

Madden said he had now arrived safely in Cusco and was looking, without much luck, for flights out of the country.

Although she feels safe at the moment, she is uneasy. “There are a lot of unknowns,” he said.

Tourists running out of medicine

American tourist Kathryn Martucci spoke to CNN about being stuck in Machu Picchu, Peru.

American tourist Kathryn Martucci spoke to CNN about being stuck in Machu Picchu, Peru.

Courtesy of Kathryn Martucci

Another American tourist who is stuck in Machu Picchu has run out of medicine and doesn’t know when she will be able to get out of the small town and get more, she told CNN.

Florida resident Kathryn Martucci, 71, was traveling in a group with 13 other Americans when Peru entered a state of emergency, she said.

According to Martucci, his tour group was unable to catch the last train out of the small town before the railroad was suspended.

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’s nothing in the small town they’re stuck in. They’re safe and have food, thankfully, but there’s 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 guide took his group to the town hall to be medically evaluated in hopes 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 it was a priority, and that they would try to get me in a helicopter from Machu Picchu 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 one helicopter can only carry 10 people. We don’t know what’s going on.”

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