Hundreds of tourists stranded in the ancient city of Machu Picchu are being evacuated after Peru was plunged into a state of emergency following the ousting of the country’s president.
Following interruptions and closures last week, train services and airports are now reopening.
Civil unrest swept Peru earlier this month when former president Pedro Castillo was impeached and arrested, and his removal from power accelerated long-simmering political tensions in the country. Rail and air travel services were disrupted as protesters stormed airports.
PeruRail, Peru’s railway operator for the south and southeast regions of the country, said in a statement on Saturday that trains were resuming operations to and from Machu Picchu on an emergency basis.
“With this objective, we are coordinating with the Municipality of Machu Picchu to ensure the proper boarding of people on these trains, prioritizing the care of the elderly, people with health conditions and families with children,” the statement read.
Trains to and from Machu Picchu, the primary means of accessing UNESCO World Heritage Site, were halted on Tuesday, and PeruRail said in its statement that it regrets the interruption of its services that were “caused by a situation beyond the control of our company.”
PeruRail also said evacuees would be taken by bus from the community of Piscacucho to the city of Cuzco, where the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ) is located.
Peru’s Ministry of Transport said on Friday that the 75 kilometers (47 miles) from Machu Picchu, has resumed flights after it had been 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.
On Sunday, Paola Lazarte, Peru’s Minister of Transport and Communications also said work is being done at the Arequipa Airport – Peru’s largest airport in the south – to resume operations. after it was shut down due to protests. She added that they had received additional lighting kits helped resume the operations of nighttime flights on Saturday.
About 300 tourists from around the world, including Peruvians, South Americans, Americans and Europeans, have been left stranded in the historic site, according to Darwin Baca, Machu Picchu’s mayor.
Baca told CNN on Friday that he had requested helicopter flights to evacuate the tourists after demonstrations halted trains and flights.
Protests broke out in cities across the country following Castillo’s ousting, sometimes marked by clashes with Peru’s security forces. Some are protesting in support of Castillo, while others want a total reset of the country with fresh general elections and a dissolution of Congress.
The Municipal District of Machu Picchu had said in a statement on Friday that it expects to evacuate tourists by Saturday as tensions escalated across the country – which had turned deadly as least 20 people have died amid the political demonstrations.
“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.
The ongoing rescue action is an organized collaborative effort 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 Machu Picchu.
The UK embassy in the Peruvian capital of Lima advised British nationals to register via the platform “iPeru” through their online form and with local authorities at the Cultural Center at Avenida Pachacutec.
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. The State Department is asking travelers in Peru to sign up for STEP alerts from the US Embassy if they haven’t yet.
In an address 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.”