(CNN) — It’s only a week until Christmas, and Mechelle Lutsko is holding onto hope that her daughter, one of the hundreds of tourists stranded in Peru, will make it home in time.
“I’ve been up all night worrying,” Lutsko told CNN Saturday from her home in Columbus, Ohio. “I’ll be so happy to hear she’s back on US soil.”
Lutsko says her daughter, Madison Spellman, a graduate student and travel nurse, was at a coffee shop when a group of protestors took to the streets. The employees locked the doors and encouraged everyone to hunker down, Spellman told her mom.
Spellman, 25, has been stuck with a friend in Cusco, Peru, for days since protests erupted in the country after former President Pedro Castillo was ousted from power last week.
About 300 tourists from around the world have been left stranded in the nearby ancient city of Machu Picchu, according to the city’s mayor, after Peru was plunged into a state of emergency following Catillo’s ousting. At least 20 people have died amid the protests.
Castillo was impeached and subsequently arrested in early December after announcing his plan to dissolve Congress. The unrest sparked by his arrest has prompted international warnings about travel to Peru. Peruvians, South Americans, Americans and Europeans are among the stranded travelers.
Lutsko said she sent messages to both the White House and US Embassy to ask for assistance in bringing her daughter home.
“I feel helpless,” she said.
Hundreds of tourists stranded in Machu Picchu amid Peru protests
Next week, Lutsko is expecting family to arrive from out of town for the holidays. Spellman was supposed to fly to Ohio on Christmas Eve to join the rest of her loved ones.
“This is our chance to see and spend time with her,” Lutsko said. “Right now we’re just waiting to see if she’ll be able to make that flight.”
Brian Vega is among those stuck in Aguas Calientes, a town that serves as the main access point to Machu Picchu. As days pass with those stranded still unable to leave, Vega says some are beginning to panic.
Vega, who has been on a solo travel trip since November 28, was supposed to leave town on Tuesday, the day demonstrations started.
“It’s been an evolving situation,” he told CNN. “You can start to see the panic in some.”
There has been talk of a pending shortage of food and water, as well as a noticeable lack of medicine, he said.
The town’s mayor warned earlier that Machu Picchu is already suffering from food shortages because of the protests, and the local economy relies 100% on tourism.
Peru’s ex-president Castillo to be jailed for 18 months as protesters declare ‘insurgency’
Vega, a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue captain, says he’s trying to remain level-headed and may attempt to hike out of the city like others have over the past few days.
The trek would be an 18-mile hike along the train tracks, which Vega says he’s heard many have completed successfully. His plan after that would be getting transportation to the airport.
Peru’s Ministry of Transport said Friday that flights had resumed from the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport in Cusco after they were temporarily suspended amid protests in the country. Operations to and from Alfredo Rodr?guez Ball?n International Airport in Arequipa remain suspended.
Vega has been in contact with many back home, including his colleagues at the fire department, who he says are doing everything they can to bring him home.
Like many others, Vega hopes to make it back home in time to spend Christmas with his family.
“I love Christmas and my kids and wife,” the father of two said. “It hurts, so hopefully I’ll make it back.”