(CNN) — About 300 tourists from around the world are stranded in the ancient city of Machu Picchu due to days of protests in Peru, Machu Picchu Mayor Darwin Baca told CNN. Baca added that Peruvians, other South Americans, Americans and Europeans are among those stranded.
Former President Pedro Castillo was indicted and later arrested in early December after announcing plans to dissolve Congress. The uproar over his arrest prompted international warnings about travel to Peru.
“We have asked the government to help us evacuate tourists and provide helicopter flights,” Baca said.
Trains to and from Machu Picchu, the main means of access to the UNESCO World Heritage site, were disrupted on Tuesday, according to a statement from PeruRail, Peru’s rail operator in the country’s south and southeast.
“PeruRail said they are still reviewing the situation,” Baca explained.
In a ray of hope for the victims, a statement released Friday night by the Machu Picchu Municipal District said stranded tourists are expected to be evacuated this Saturday.
“The Municipality through the Tourism Division is carrying out the necessary coordination to select and prioritize children and vulnerable persons for transfer on humanitarian flights, work carried out in coordination with the National Police and the District Health Center,” he said.
The U.S. is in contact with U.S. citizens stranded in Peru, a State Department spokesperson told CNN on Friday.
“We are providing all necessary diplomatic assistance while closely monitoring the situation. For privacy and security reasons, we will not release further details about the number of US citizens contacted,” the spokesperson added.
The U.S. Embassy in Peru said in a statement early Friday that the Peruvian government was preparing to evacuate foreigners from the city of Aguas Calientes, which serves as the main access point to Machu Picchu.
“Once the assistance program is confirmed, we will issue a message with instructions. Travelers in the city of Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu should follow the instructions of local authorities to receive assistance with travel to Cusco, as well as anyone wishing to travel on foot,” the statement added.
Food shortages at Machu Picchu
Meanwhile, Mayor Baca warned that Machu Picchu is already suffering from food shortages as a result of the protests and that the local economy is 100% dependent on tourism.
Baca urged the government led by new President Tina Polwart to start a dialogue with the local population to quickly put an end to social discontent.
PeruRail, for its part, said it would help affected passengers change their travel dates.
“We regret the inconvenience these announcements will cause to our passengers; However, they are caused by circumstances beyond our control and we will seek to prioritize the safety of passengers and workers,” the company said in a statement.
Peru’s transport ministry said on Friday that flights from Alejandro Velasco Astet International Airport in Cusco had resumed after they were temporarily suspended amid protests in the country.
“Passengers who need to move while the curfew is in force can use their travel tickets as safe conduct,” the ministry said.
Operations to and from Alfredo Rodríguez Balón International Airport in Arequipa remain suspended.
“LATAM continues to monitor the political situation in Peru to provide relevant information regarding how it may affect our flight operations,” LATAM Airlines Peru said in a statement.
“We are awaiting the response of the relevant authorities who should take steps to guarantee the safety of the development of flight operations,” he said.
He added: “We regret the inconvenience this situation beyond our control has caused our passengers and we reinforce our commitment to aviation safety and connectivity in the country.”
US, UK and Canadian warnings
The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for citizens planning to visit Peru, which is listed as a level three “travel reconsideration” destination.
“Demonstrations lead to the closure of local roads, trains and major roads, often without warning or an estimate of reopening time,” the statement explained.
“Road closures will significantly reduce access to public transport and airports and disrupt travel within and between cities,” it warns.
The State Department is asking travelers in Peru to sign up for the U.S. Embassy’s STEP alerts if they haven’t already done so.
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office issued warnings to its citizens about the situation in the South American country.
“British citizens should take extra care to avoid all areas of protests. If possible, they should stay in a safe place…plan ahead to avoid serious disruption to any plans,” he said. FCDO on their website this Friday night.
He told travelers arriving in the capital Lima that there was no possibility of getting to or from several regional areas, including Cusco and Arequipa, and further disruption was likely.
British citizens were warned to respect the curfew in force in Peru and to monitor local news and social media for further information.
Canada’s Department of Global Affairs warned its citizens to “exercise an extreme amount of caution” in Peru and avoid non-essential travel to several regions. Canada’s Global News spoke to a Canadian trapped in Ica, a small town in southern Peru, who said he is now far from civil unrest, but a taxi was stolen from him.
At least 20 people died amid the political protests.
Tourists run out of medicine
An American tourist stranded in Machu Picchu ran out of medicine and didn’t know when he would be able to leave the small town and get more, he told CNN.
Florida resident Kathryn Martucci, 71, was on a group tour with 13 other Americans when Peru entered the 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 train stopped.
Her son Michael Martucci, who lives in the U.S., also spoke to CNN and is trying to help his mother find a way out.
“They’ve been there since Monday and now she and the other people with her are without the medicine they need,” Martucci said. “There’s nothing in the small town they’re stuck in. They’re safe, luckily there’s food, but there’s still no way to get medicine.”
Martucci said his team was scheduled to stay in Machu Picchu for two days, so they were told to pack light and bring only a two-day supply of medicine.
On Friday morning, Martucci said his tour guide took his group to City Hall for a medical evaluation, hoping local officials would understand their situation and help find a way out.
“There were about 100 tourists in line and we waited two hours to see the doctor,” Martucci said. “They told me I was the first and they were going to try to get me out of Machu Picchu in a helicopter in the next two days.”
However, Martucci isn’t sure if that will happen, he told CNN. “So many people need help, one helicopter can only go 10 people. We don’t know what’s going on.”