Ongoing street protests sweeping through Haiti have left 24 Canadian missionaries and another group of nurses among the visitors stranded in the Caribbean country.
The missionaries have been confined to their compound in Grand Goâve, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the capital of Port-au-Prince. Roads littered with burning tires were blocked, according to a statement from the missionary team Haiti ARISE.
“We have nowhere to go, roads are blocked, rioting all over the streets and businesses are being destroyed,” a man referred to as Marc says in a video posted on the group’s Facebook page. “We do have a team here and we have been trying to get them out and it has been totally impossible.”
Protests and unrest gave griped Haiti for more than a week. Demonstrators calling for President Jovenel Moise to resign over soaring inflation and corruption allegations have set cars ablaze and clashed with police.
Moise was defiant in a televised address Thursday, rejecting calls to resign and saying he “will not leave the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers.”
Several people have been killed in the clashes, according to local media reports. CNN has not been able independently to confirm the exact number of those killed.
In the Port-au-Prince neighborhoods of Nazon and Turgeau, scores of people stood in lines Saturday desperate for the basics of life: water, gas and food.
Crowds, about 100 strong in spots, dotted the roadways, waiting with 5-gallon plastic buckets, and gas stations were mobbed.
Meanwhile, another eight Canadians who were also trapped inside their charity’s compound secured a helicopter to take them out of the country. The nurses started a crowdfunding appeal this week asking the public to “help us escape.”
“The director of the compound has instructed us not to go outside,” Tracy Hotta, one of the trapped nurses, told CNN, adding that the nurses are safe inside.
“They’re very destitute down here,” she said, explaining why some Haitians are protesting. “They have zero health care. … They’re taking desperate measures to try and make a change for themselves.”
A helicopter was to take the nurses directly to Port-au-Prince from the compound.
“We are stranded here because we are about an hour away from Port-au-Prince where the violent protest is and they have set up barriers on the roads to get to the airports,” the women wrote in their GoFundMe appeal, which surpassed its target by raising $16,000. “It is unlikely we will pass those barriers without being harmed.”
The nurses said their calls to the Canadian Embassy in Haiti were redirected to Ottawa and went unanswered.
The US and Canadian governments have warned people not to travel to Haiti due to crime and civil unrest. The Canadian government has issued a travel advisory to “avoid all travel to Haiti.”
An additional 113 Canadian tourists stranded at a beach resort also were scheduled to be evacuated Saturday.
CNN’s Miguel Marquez reported from Port-au-Prince, while Rob Picheta wrote from London and Shelby Rose reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Devon Sayer and Hira Humayun contributed to this report.