Katelyn and Michelle Kribel went to Peru for a vacation and haven’t been able to leave as the country joins others in locking down its borders. Photo courtesy of Michelle Kribel

Michelle Kribel and her daughter, Katelyn, flew to Peru last week to begin what they thought would be the adventure of a lifetime.

The Windham residents planned to celebrate Michelle’s 51st birthday by exploring the Amazon rain forest. They journeyed to a jungle lodge by boat, a river trip that took them about four hours.

They spent most of Saturday and Sunday exploring the rain forest. On the third day of their stay at the lodge, their life-changing experience took a turn for the worse.

Lodge staff awakened them around 6 a.m. Monday and said they had been ordered to evacuate guests from the lodge immediately.

The Kribels threw their belongings together and boarded a boat that took them to the port city of Iquitos, only to later learn that the Peruvian government was about to put the South American nation on a mandatory lockdown at midnight because of the coronavirus. They were lucky to catch a flight to Lima, the capital, but that is as far as they got.

With less than 24 hours to evacuate the country, Kribel said that she and her daughter were unable to get a flight out of Lima. The government proceeded to shut down airports and nonessential businesses, leaving them stuck in a downtown hotel for at least two weeks. Grocery stores, pharmacies and hospitals remain open.

“We can’t leave, and Americans are stranded all over the country,” Kribel said by phone.

Kribel, who works as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, said she is scheduled to return to work next week, but even after returning home she will likely self-quarantine for 14 days.

“I’m looking at being out of work for a month, and I have bills to pay,” she said. Her daughter is a student at the University of Maine in Orono.

“Right now, we have zero rights. No one is offering us any assistance,” Kribel said. “The worst part of this is the uncertainty.”

As of late Wednesday, more than 1,200 Americans were trapped in Peru, according to an unofficial list compiled by Ainsley Katz of Washington, D.C. Katz said she developed the spreadsheet on behalf of her father, who can’t get out of Peru. The Kribels appear to be the only people from Maine on the list.

Katz is urging people to list their names and hometowns in the hope that if enough people sign the list the U.S. government will put them on a charter flight out of the country.

In addition to Katz’s list, other pleas for help have sprung up on social media sites including Twitter, where Americans have posted their stories under the hashtag #stuckinperu.

“We, Americans, are all scared. Please get us home. We need our government. No response from US embassy or Consulate in Peru. Hundreds of us here,” one woman tweeted.


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