GREENSBORO, N.C. — A group of Triad travelers are among the more than 1,500 Americans trapped in Peru after the border shut down unexpectedly.
It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime to Peru for Greensboro resident Caroline Smith and her five travel buddies.
"We had some time in lima. We flew to Cusco. We saw a lot of really beautiful ruins," Smith said.
But things changed almost in an instant.
"I'm just frustrated at how fast everything happened," she said.
The Peruvian President announced around 8 Sunday night March 15 the border was shutting down land, sea, or air travel at 11:59 pm Monday, March 16
"So they gave us 27 hours to get out," Smith said.
Smith says chaos erupted, many flocking to the airport to try to get on a flight.
"The airlines immediately shut down, basically immediately shut down international flights after the announcement," Smith said.
The airport was a madhouse packed to the brim with tourists who now had to find a place to stay.
The country was then put on a 15-day mandatory quarantine.
Smith is just one of more than a thousand Americans stuck in Peru.
"I did not expect this to happen at all. We thought it would be a very safe place to travel. All the maps looked clear," Katie De Chabert said.
She's been in the country since early March along with her 77-year-old who now needs medical attention, and her 26-year-old niece.
De Chabert said when she flew Peru was not on the State Department's list of Level 3 countries not to travel to. She added she's frustrated with how little notice Americans were given.
She didn't see the Peruvian President's message on TV. Instead, she said she got an email from the Department of State notifying her of the border's closure just four hours before the deadline because she had enrolled in the Smart Travelers Enrolment Program.
"Our embassy is not helping. The State Department is not helping. So we need to spread awareness so that we can get people home safely," De Chabert said.
It's a sentiment echoed by Kristen Monesmith an ER nurse from Durham.
She tried to go to the consulate in Cusco in person after she heard the news from a Peruvian friend.
"There were two signs on the door basically referring to their webpage that said absolutely nothing," Monesmith said. "Basically you're stranded we are not going to help you."
Monesmith says she's trying reaching out to other politicians.
"We've called our congressmen and our senators which the ones from North Carolina are being absolutely fabulous. They are calling the State Department daily and getting the runaround," Monesmith said.
Using the hashtag #stuckinperu. Americans are turning to social media trying to highlight what's going on in Peru.
Some don't have any lodgings, others are hurt, and police are patrolling the streets daily enforcing the mandatory quarantine. A strict curfew was implemented Wednesday.
A spreadsheet tracking the number of U.S. citizens stuck in Peru was made by a fellow American. At the time of publication, the list has more than 1,500 citizens from 48 states, DC and Puerto Rico.
Those Wfmy News 2 spoke with are hoping the United States follows the lead of other countries like Israel who have sent planes to pick up their citizens.
They say the uncertainty of when they are coming home is what's most concerning.
"So everything is really up in the air we have no clear-cut answers from anybody," De Chabert said.
"There is no timeline on when we will learn more," Smith said.
"If my Peruvian friends are worried, you know that it's really time to worry," Monesmith said.
Wfmy News 2 reached out to the Department of State a spokesperson said:
The Department of State has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas.
We are aware the governments of several countries have announced suspension of air travel. We are considering all options to assist U.S. citizens in these countries.
We are continuously assessing travel conditions in all areas affected by COVID-19, and will continue to update our travel advisories and safety information for U.S. travelers as situations evolve.
We also reached out to Representative Mark Walker of District 6. A spokesperson said back this statement writing:
Rep. Walker is aware of the Americans stuck in Peru and other overseas countries. Today, President Trump also addressed this issue, noting that his Administration will draft a plan to evacuate these Americans, which could entail flights chartered by the U.S. military. Our office has been in contact with several North Carolinians on lockdowns abroad and will continue to monitor the situation closely and work with the Administration to ensure we get North Carolinians and other Americans home as quickly and safely as possible.