Evacuations from the Peruvian Government are in process for the hundreds of tourists who have been stranded in Machu Picchu after Peru launched into violent political unrest last week.
Transportation to and from the UNESCO World Heritage Site paused since Dec. 15 due to the country’s demonstrations.
On Saturday, emergency trains between the famous tourist attraction and Cuzco, where there is an airport, resumed operations for evacuees, according to PeruRail. Train services are the main way to access Machu Pichcu.
Four helicopters were also scheduled to pick up “the most vulnerable foreign tourists” from Aguas Calientes, considered the city for the Machu Picchu ruins, on Saturday, according to the U.S. Embassy in Lima. U.S. citizens were told to visit the Casa de la Cultura in the village by Friday and show their passports if they wanted to participate.
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How were travelers evacuated?
Most travelers stuck in the remote village of Machu Picchu hiked nearly 20 miles by foot to Ollantaytambo, a nearby town. From there, people tried to find a driver to take them 45 miles to Cuzco hoping to get a flight out to Lima or their final destination.
Tony Hepburn, a real estate agent from Canada, arrived in Machu Picchu on Thursday and was one of the foreigners stranded. While he was “aware of the political climate” before he left on his trip, he “had no idea it would escalate to that degree,” he told USA TODAY.
When Hepburn and his group arrived in Aguas Calientes, they noticed train station gates being welded closed and there were boulders on the train tracks. They decided to attempt to leave the next morning.
At 5:30 a.m., Hepburn and his group started the trek to Ollantaytambo and convinced a local to give them a ride before being stopped by a protest barricade. Hepburn said their driver was then attacked by around 50 protestors, which he said was “the most nerve-wracking moment.” Hepburn and his group walked down the road to find a new driver and resume their journey.
On the way to Cuzco from Ollantaytambo, which seemed “virtually deserted,” Hepburn recalled seeing “boulders, trees and debris strewn all over the roads.”
Hepburn bought flights back to Canada from Cuzco for Monday and Tuesday but “took a gamble” and managed to get flights leaving Sunday night to arrive in Montreal on Monday.
Is the US government assisting in the efforts?
According to a State Department spokesperson, the agency is in touch with U.S. citizens in Peru and that it’s “monitoring the situation closely.” The agency also said that it’s unaware of any further U.S. citizens needing assistance to evacuate Machu Picchu as of Monday.
On Dec. 15, the State Department issued a Level 3: Reconsider Travel advisory due to the country’s crime and civil unrest.
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What is the situation in Peru?
Peru’s new government declared a national emergency Wednesday as it struggled to calm violent protests over President Pedro Castillo’s ouster, suspending the rights of “personal security and freedom” across the Andean nation for 30 days.
Acts of vandalism, violence and highway blockades as thousands of Peruvians are in the streets “require a forceful and authoritative response from the government,” Defense Minister Luis Otarola Peñaranda said.
Peru has been wracked by nearly a week of political crisis and unrest that have undermined stability.
At least seven people have died in the protests across the country and 200 police officers have been injured, according to the Associated Press.
Contributing: Franklin Briceño in Andahuaylas, Peru, and David Pereda and Regina Garcia Cano in Lima for The Associated Press.
Story Credit: usatoday.com