Violent protests that began after the removal from office of President Pedro Castillo are keeping American tourists from leaving Peru. The government declared a national emergency on Wednesday, per NBC News. Hundreds of foreign visitors in total have been stranded around the historic city of Machu Picchu. Brian Vega said he was at the mountainous UNESCO World Heritage site when rail lines to the airport, nearly 50 miles away, were shut down. Photos and witnesses indicated protesters had put rocks on the tracks; highways are blocked, as well. "We're isolated here," said Vega, a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue captain. "The only way in is via train or the other case would be a helicopter." He said he's thinking of trying to hike to another town to find access to the airport.
Mechelle Lutsko told CNN that her daughter and a friend have been stuck since the protesters flooded the streets. Madison Spellman was in a coffee shop in Cusco at the time. Employees locked up and urged customers to hunker down, the graduate student and travel nurse told her mother. Lutsko has sent messages for help to the White House and US Embassy. "I feel helpless," she said. At least 20 people have been killed in the unrest. The US Embassy in Lima said Saturday that Peru's government is organizing an evacuation "via four helicopters of the most vulnerable foreign tourists" from Machu Picchu. On Sunday, the embassy tweeted that nearly tourism police escorted 400 tourists out, eventually putting them on buses to the airport. (More Machu Picchu stories.)