An Anchorage family of six is stuck in Peru and can't get home to Alaska

Published: Mar. 25, 2020 at 5:25 PM AKDT
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Karim Otaegui isn't sure when she'll be able to go home to Anchorage.

For most of the day, she sits inside her uncle's home in Peru. No one is allowed outside. The streets are empty. Otaegio constantly checks her computer.

Will an email arrive today with an update that a plane has landed in Peru and she and five other family members can fly back to Alaska?

"It frightens me the thought of being stranded for a longer time," Otaegui wrote in a Facebook message.

Otaegui and her sister Denise own the popular Spanish immersion school Somos Amigos in Anchorage.

The family, originally from Peru, had recently gone back to their home country for a celebration of life honoring Karim's older sister Ivette who died March 12th of last year in Anchorage. That was before coronavirus started spreading and travel restrictions began. Then the President of Perú announced that the Peruvian border would close.

Otaegui's flight was March 17th at 12:15 a.m., the border closed at 11:59 p.m.

"I missed it by 15 minutes," Otaegui said during a video chat on Facebook messenger.

She rescheduled a flight home for March 31st, but that flight was later canceled. Now she's booked on a flight on April 2nd.

"Right now everything is up in the air, " Otaegui said. "We don't know what is going to happen."

It's estimated that about 1,600 Americans are stuck in Peru. According to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, 19 are Alaskans, six are part of the Otaegui family.

Otaegui says the Embassy has been slow to help. She's reached out to Senator's Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan's offices. By Wednesday morning the family in Peru and Anchorage were getting nervous and frustrated about what they describe as a slow-moving process with little answers. They also say they are running out of medicine for Otaegui's mother and uncle.

Meanwhile, Murkowski released a video message saying her office is working "aggressively" to get the Americans back home.

"We know the anxiety that this is causing the families and the concerns from those that are in Peru," Murkowski said.

The Americans in Peru have started a Facebook group and hashtag, #AmericansStuckInPeru, to update each other and pass along information. Tuesday morning Sen. Marco Rubio (R) tweeted that the Americans need to be brought home as soon as possible.

"#AmericansStuckInPeru is due to lack of urgency by some in mid-level of @StateDept," Rubio tweeted.

Over the weekend, Politico reported that the U.S. government couldn't get approval from the Peruvian government for repatriation flights without also promising to pay for and arrange repatriation flights for Peruvians who wanted to return home.

Otaegui says she's heard about American's flying home, mostly younger people she says, but she hasn't been told if or when she'll be able to leave. She says she's growing increasingly worried about her older uncle and mother who are in Peru with her.

"It's really scary," Otaegui said. "I've never been through this situation ever in my life."

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