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Thousands of tourists stranded near Machu Picchu amid unrest in Peru

Click to play video: '‘We need help’: Dozens of tourists stranded in remote mountain town in Cusco amid Peru protests'
‘We need help’: Dozens of tourists stranded in remote mountain town in Cusco amid Peru protests
‘We need help’: Dozens of tourists stranded in remote mountain town in Cusco amid Peru protests – Dec 16, 2022

A state of emergency in Peru has left thousands of foreign tourists stranded since Wednesday near the idyllic ancient city of Machu Picchu.

The December arrest of the country’s former president Pedro Castillo spurred chaos in Peru and triggered ongoing political protests. As a result, rail lines, roads and airports have been closed, preventing tourists of varying nationalities from leaving the area around Machu Picchu, Radio France International said.

On Friday, international news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported 5,000 tourists were stranded in Cusco, the gateway city to Machu Picchu.

Trains to and from Machu Picchu have been halted since Tuesday, CNN reported. The railway is the most popular way to reach the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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PeruRail, the railway operator between the south and southeast regions of Peru, said in a statement it will assist travelers in selecting alternative dates for their train rides, as soon as it is possible to do so.

“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,” read a PeruRail statement, as per CNN.

All flights from both Alfredo Rodríguez Ballón International Airport in Arequipa and the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco (75 kilometres from Machu Picchu) have been suspended.

Lima Airport Partners claimed the Cusco airport will reopen on Friday at 12 p.m. “provided that the security conditions are met for the restart of operations.” As of this writing, it appears all departures from the airport have been cancelled.

Stranded tourists have been using social media, namely Twitter, to share photo and video of the escalating situation and connect with one another to share updates online.

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One American woman posted video of a municipal official informing tourists on Tuesday that train service had stopped.

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The same Twitter user also claimed several tourists had started to walk to Cusco on Thursday, as transportation remained suspended.

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Global News spoke to one Canadian tourist who was in the small town of Ica, four-and-a-half hours away from Lima, Peru’s capital city.

Landon Evans of Kamloops, B.C., said he’s away from the civil unrest now but was stuck in the protests as he travelled to Ica. He also said he was robbed while in a taxi.

Evans plans to fly back to Canada from Lima on Monday — should flights take off — but says he must first ride on a dune buggy across a desert for two hours and then hitchhike to the capital.

“At this point, I’m looking forward to getting home. I have had enough adventure,” Evans said with a smile.

Click to play video: 'B.C. student stuck in Peru amid civil unrest'
B.C. student stuck in Peru amid civil unrest

The protests, at some points violent, broke out across the country last week after Peruvian Congress ousted Castillo from office. That move came after Castillo tried to dissolve Congress ahead of an impeachment vote.

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Castillo remains in police custody and is facing a rebellion charge. His supporters are protesting to demand his freedom and the resignation of his successor, interim president Dina Boluarte. Many protesters also call for new, immediate elections for all of Congress.

At least six people have been confirmed dead in the clashes.

On Thursday, Canada asked travellers to “exercise a high degree of caution” in Peru.

Earlier, the embassy of Canada in Peru asked tourists to register with the organization so travellers can be reached if necessary. The embassy also urged Canadians in the country to reach out if they needed emergency help and shared a safety and security bulletin warning of an “especially volatile” political situation.

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With files from Global News’ Darrian Matassa-Fung

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