Trying to get home: Central Valley residents among those trying to leave Peru

Local News

FRESNO, California (KSEE) — Since last week, countries all over the world have been shutting down their borders over COVID-19 concerns. Some, like Peru, have shut them down completely. It’s put Americans in limbo, including some from the Central Valley.

Kimberly Ashford’s trip to Peru was supposed to be memorable for different reasons. Ashford and her fiancé — from Fresno and Madera respectively — joined Ashford’s uncle, Greg Gorman, on a mission trip he organized in the Amazon Rainforest.

“My grandparents were missionaries in Peru for over four decades. There was a whole celebration deep in the jungle, so, we spent almost a week down in the Amazon jungle,” Ashford said.

But, the celebration was cut short. The group of 27 made their way to the airport fast after hearing Peru declared a state of emergency over the novel coronavirus.

Most of the group managed to buy tickets and make it out of the country. Ashford, her fiancé, and Garman originally had tickets for March 16, but their flight got canceled as the country shut down its borders the same day.

The trio, along with five others from their group, waited more than five hours in line at the airport and went back and forth with the embassy. But, as of Sunday night, the remaining group still hadn’t been able to fly out.

The group was encouraged, though, after hearing President Donald Trump specifically mentioned Peru in Sunday’s briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

“We’re working very hard and long on getting a young group of people out of Peru,” Trump said, saying the U.S. is working with the Peruvian government to get people out.

They’re also hopeful since they have tickets, despite facing three cancellations already.

“We’re just having our fingers crossed and hoping our flight will somehow hold up,” Garman said.

Thanks to their connections, the group has managed to stay in a house with Wi-Fi. While grateful for that, Ashford knows it puts them on a lower priority to be evacuated.

“We are very thankful we have this residence to be here, but it comes at a cost of staying here longer,” she said.

Their current flight is scheduled to leave March 31. On its website, the U.S. embassy in Peru said around 500 American tourists have left the country this weekend. Included in that, those described as “urgent medical cases.”

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