Hundreds of tourists stranded in Machu Picchu amid Peru protests

(CNN) :About 300 tourists from around the world have been left stranded in the ancient city of Machu Picchu, according to the mayor, after Peru was plunged into a state of emergency following the ousting of the country’s president.
Former President Pedro Castillo was impeached and subsequently arrested in early December after announcing his plan to dissolve Congress. The unrest sparked by his arrest has prompted international warnings about travel to Peru.
Darwin Baca, Machu Picchu’s mayor, said that Peruvians, South Americans, Americans and Europeans are among the stranded travelers.
“We have asked the government to help us and establish helicopter flights in order to evacuate the tourists,” Baca said Friday. The only way to get 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 published late Friday by the Municipal District of Machu Picchu said stranded tourists were expected to be evacuated 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 Machu Picchu, the primary means of accessing UNESCO World Heritage Site, were halted on Tuesday, according to a statement from PeruRail, Peru’s railway operator in the south and southeast regions of the country.
“PeruRail said they are still reviewing the situation,” Baca explained.
The United States is in touch with American 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 won’t go into further details about numbers of US citizens who have reached out,” the spokesperson added.
The US embassy in Peru said in a statement early on 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 release a message with instructions as soon as the assistance plan is confirmed. Travelers located at Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu Village should follow instructions from local authorities whether they choose to remain in place for assistance with travel to Cusco, as well as any travelers who may choose to travel by foot,” the statement added.

Food shortages in Machu Picchu

Meanwhile, Mayor Baca warned that Machu Picchu is already suffering from food shortages because of the protests, and the local economy relies 100% on tourism.
Baca called on the government, led by 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 assist affected passengers in changing the dates of their travel.
“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.
Travelers wait outside the airport in Cuzco on Friday after it was temporarily closed because of protests.
Travelers wait outside the airport in Cuzco on Friday after it was temporarily closed because of protests.
Peru’s Ministry of Transport said 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 move during curfew hours may use their travel tickets as a safe-conduct,” the ministry said.
Operations to and from Alfredo Rodríguez Ballón International Airport in Arequipa remain 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 statement.
“We await the response of the relevant authorities, who must take corrective measures to ensure safety for the development of air operations.”
It 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 have died amid the political demonstrations.

Warnings from the US, the UK and Canada

Demonstrators clash with police during a protest in Lima on Thursday.
Demonstrators clash with police during a protest in Lima on Thursday.
The US State Department has issued a travel advisory for citizens traveling in Peru, which it has listed as a level three “reconsider travel” destination.
“Demonstrations can cause the shutdown of local roads, trains, and major highways, often without prior notice or estimated reopening timelines.
“Road closures may significantly reduce access to public transportation and airports and may disrupt travel both within and between cities,” it warns.
The State Department is asking travelers in Peru to sign up for STEP alerts from the US Embassy if they haven’t yet.