Australians among hundreds of tourists stranded in Peru amid violent civil unrest
Former President Pedro Castillo was impeached and subsequently arrested in early December after announcing his plan to dissolve Congress. The violence and unrest sparked by his arrest has prompted international warnings about travel to Peru.
9News understands more than 20 Australians are stranded at the popular attraction.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said its embassy in Lima, Peru’s capital, has been contacted by more than 170 Australians, although they didn’t say how many exactly were in Machu Picchu.
“The Australian government is monitoring the situation in Peru closely,” the spokesperson said.
“As at 17 December 2022, 171 Australians have contacted our embassy in Lima. Many of those are in the city of Cusco and Machu Picchu, where transport options are limited.
“DFAT is not aware of any Australians detained or injured. Australians are advised to follow the directions of local authorities.
“The Smartraveller travel advice for Peru has been updated and is being continually reviewed.”
The department’s travel advice for Peru is set to “Exercise a high degree of caution”, while Australians are advised to “reconsider your need to travel” to Arequipa, Cusco and Puno, due to the civil unrest in the country.
Darwin Baca, Machu Picchu’s mayor, said that Peruvians, South Americans, Americans and Europeans are also among the stranded travellers.
“We have asked the government to help us and establish helicopter flights in order to evacuate the tourists,” Baca said. The only way to get in and out of the town is by train, and these services are suspended until further notice, he 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.
Food shortages in Machu Picchu
The mayor also warned that Machu Picchu is already suffering from food shortages because of the protests, and the local economy relies 100 per cent 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 has 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.
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Tourists stranded elsewhere in Peru
LATAM Airlines Peru said operations to and from Alfredo Rodríguez Ballón International Airport in Arequipa and the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cuzco, 75 kilometres from Machu Picchu, had been temporarily 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,” the airline said in a 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.”
Tourists running out of medications
An American tourist who’s stuck in Machu Picchu has run out of medication and is unsure when she’ll be able to leave the small town and get more, she tells CNN.
Florida resident Kathryn Martucci, 71, was on a group trip with 13 other Americans when Peru went into the state of emergency, she said.
According to Martucci, her travel group was unable to grab the last train out of the small town before the railroad was suspended.
Her son Michael Martucci, who lives in the United States, also spoke with CNN and has been trying to help his mother find a way out.
“They’ve been there since Monday, and now she and the other people she’s with are running out of the medications they need,” Martucci said. “There’s nothing in the tiny town they’re stuck in. They’re safe and have food thankfully, but there’s no way to get more medication.”
Martucci said her group was scheduled to stay in Machu Picchu for two days, so they were told to pack light and only bring a two-day supply of medication.
On Friday morning, Martucci said her tour guide took her group to city hall to be medically evaluated in hopes that local officials would understand their situation and help them find a way out.
“There were about 100 tourists in line, and we waited for two hours before we saw the doctor,” Martucci said. “They told me I was a priority, and that they were going to try to get me on a helicopter out of Machu Picchu in the next two days.”
Yet, Martucci is unsure whether that will happen, she told CNN.
“There several people in need of help, and a helicopter can only carry 10 people. We don’t know what’s going on.”