Stranded travelers board evacuation flights from Morocco

Foreigners stranded in locked-down Morocco boarded evacuation flights Friday as governments tried to repatriate their citizens after days of travel frustration.

Visitors from around the world found themselves stuck in Morocco after the North African country suspended all international passenger flights and passenger ships to and from its territory beginning last Sunday.

The U.S. government said special chartered flights for U.S. citizens would be departing Morocco on Friday following intensifying complaints from several hundred American students and tourists scattered in cities around Morocco.

Unable to secure spots on commercial flights, some travelers slept on floors in the Marrakech airport or holed up in one of the last hotels open in Rabat. Some said they were running out of blood pressure pills and other medications.

The French government repatriated 13,000 of its citizens by Thursday and said it was working on getting up to 7,000 more out.

“Last flights for France,” the French ambassador tweeted Friday, sharing information on where seats ware still available. France is the biggest source of tourists in Morocco and has deep economic and cultural ties to the North African country reaching back to colonial times.

American tourists and students told The Associated Press on Thursday that the U.S. government had done little to help them and they instead sought guidance from other governments or searched for their own way home despite limited escape routes.

The U.S. ambassador tweeted a video promising to help, and the evacuation flights were announced overnight. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said two or three flights left Friday.

The stranded travelers came from around the world, but evacuation assistance and guidance has varied widely from government to government.

Morocco’s Interior Ministry declared a health emergency late Thursday, barring anyone from being outside except to go to work or to shop at grocery stores or pharmacies. The restriction also requires people to present to police documents justifying their reasons for being out.

In its latest figures, Morocco reported 74 confirmed coronavirus cases, including three deaths.

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