'A dead quiet': Church group stuck in Peru waiting for evacuation
LONDON, ONT. -- Members of three churches from London, Ont. are stuck in Peru with no way to come home after that country closed its borders and streets.
“Peru was not seen as a high-risk country,” says Pastor Graham Buchanan of why the church group decided to go ahead with a humanitarian mission to the country.
“We had a green light from multiple levels, the airlines weren’t giving us any indication to worry. Everything on the ground in Peru was totally fine to go.”
The group, made up of six adults and 18 high school students, left Canada on March 12. By the time the group made the eight-hour drive from the capital, Lima, to their destination in Trujillo, the world was changing quickly.
“Schools had been shut down, and over the next few days the government took even more solid action,” says group leader Dave De Smit. “They instilled a 16-day lockdown on air, sea, and land travel.”
The group has remained within the compound of its host since that time, unable to leave during the military enforced shut down.
“In terms of the feel here, it’s very quiet. Typically you would hear the hustle and bustle of a city of a million people and so now all you’re hearing is a dead quiet,” says De Smit.
As the COVID-19 crisis evolves, concern is growing back home that a plan for a massive evacuation of Canadians stranded in the South American country is needed.
Government estimates range anywhere from 600 to over 1,000 Canadian citizens still in Peru.
“I’m not going to rest until they are back,” says London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos. “We are doing everything we can, on a local level. Beyond that the government of Canada is doing everything in its power to facilitate their quick return and safe return.”
No definitive plans have been laid out, nor a timeline provided when the group will be repatriated, but there is hope a deal will be made between the two governments soon.