Peru evacuates hundreds of tourists stranded amid protests

(CNN) — Hundreds of tourists stranded in the ancient city of Machu Picchu are being evacuated after Peru entered a state of emergency following the ouster of President Pedro Castillo.

Following last week’s disruptions and closures, train services and airports are now reopening.

Civil unrest swept Peru earlier this month when former President Castillo was ousted and arrested, his removal from power accelerating simmering political tensions in the country. Rail and air transport services were disrupted when protesters stormed airports.

Stranded tourists walk through Chilca, near Machu Picchu.
Alejandra Orosco/Reuters

PeruRail, Peru’s rail operator for the southern and southeastern regions of the country, said in a statement on Saturday that trains would resume operations to and from Machu Picchu on an emergency basis.

“With this objective, we coordinate with the Municipality of Machu Picchu to guarantee the correct boarding of people on these trains, prioritizing the care of older adults, people with health problems and families with children,” the statement read.

Trains to and from Machu Picchu, the main means of access to the Unesco World Heritage site, stopped on Tuesday, and PeruRail said in its statement that it regrets the interruption of its services which were “caused by a situation out of control of our company”.

PeruRail also said the evacuees would be transferred by bus from the community of Piscacucho to the city of Cuzco, where the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ) is located.

Peru’s transport ministry said Friday that the 75-kilometer (47-mile) route from Machu Picchu has resumed flights after being temporarily suspended amid protests in the country.

“Passengers who need to move during the curfew will be able to use their travel tickets as safe passage,” the ministry said.

On Sunday, Paola Lazarte, Peru’s Minister of Transport and Communications, also said that work is underway at Arequipa Airport, the largest airport in southern Peru, to resume operations after it was closed due to protests. She added that they had received additional lighting kits that helped resume night flight operations on Saturday.

Some 300 tourists from around the world, including Peruvians, South Americans, Americans and Europeans, have been stranded at the historic site, according to Darwin Baca, the mayor of Machu Picchu.

Baca told CNN on Friday that he had requested helicopter flights to evacuate tourists after protests halted trains and flights.

Protests broke out in cities across the country following Castillo’s ouster, sometimes punctuated by clashes with Peru’s security forces. Some are protesting in support of Castillo, while others want a full reset of the country with new general elections and the dissolution of Congress.

The Machu Picchu Municipal District had said in a statement on Friday that it hoped to evacuate tourists on Saturday as tensions rise across the country, where at least 25 people have been killed amid political protests.

“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.

Warnings from international governments

The ongoing rescue action is a collaborative effort organized between the mayor of Machu Picchu, Darwin Baca León, in coordination with the Ministries of Foreign Trade and Tourism, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Culture (DDC) and the District Municipality of Macchu Picchu.

The UK embassy in the Peruvian capital Lima advised British citizens to register on the “iPeru” platform through its online form and with local authorities at the Cultural Center on Avenida Pachacutec.

The US Department of State has issued a travel advisory for citizens traveling to Peru, listing it as a level three “travel reconsideration” destination. The Department of State is asking travelers in Peru to sign up for STEP alerts from the US Embassy if they have not already done so.

In a speech on Sunday, Pope Francis called for peace in Peru.

“We pray for peace in Peru, that the violence in the country cease and that the path of dialogue be undertaken to overcome the political and social crisis that afflicts the population.”

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