MONTREAL — More than 100 Quebec tourists who have been trapped in Haiti due to violent street protests are expected to return to Canada today.
Helicopter evacuations began this morning to transport travellers from a resort hotel on the Caribbean country’s Cote des Arcadins to the airport in the capital of Port-au-Prince.
Air Transat, which sold the tourists the vacation package, is providing the flight back to Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport that is expected to land this evening.
— Air Transat (@airtransat) February 16, 2019
The airline had previously resisted calls to transport the vacationers to the airport, citing issues with both logistics and security.
Other Canadians stuck in Haiti have also been making their way to the airport by way of helicopter flights or harrowing road journeys.
“I was part of the second group. There are six groups,” Lyse Belair told CityNews Montreal, explaining she was waiting with luggage on the 10th to be evacuated only to find out she wouldn’t be leaving that day after all.
“I was at the resort with my luggage ready to go [when] they told us we were delayed and that we were going to stay there because of the roadblocks and then it was day-by-day. But we didn’t get very much information… We were very irritated Thursday because we weren’t getting answers besides the roads were blocked. The English and French and Americans had been lifted already so we were just waiting for them to give us news.”
Belair said people started to get more and more concerned as the food at the resort buffets was cut down and the SWAT teams started to move in.
“We didn’t know how long we were going to be there for,” she said. “We tried to come out of the hotel a couple times but we couldn’t get out–the military was there.”
Quebecers making their way back to Montreal tonight after violent protests in Haiti blocked passage to the airport for over a week. Helicopters are bringing them to the airport now. Photos: Lyse Belair pic.twitter.com/K8IrKjMvwE
— Breakfast Television & CityNews Montreal (@BTCityNewsMTL) February 16, 2019
Finally, after getting to the airport, she said the group she was in was relieved and a lot of stress was lifted.
“[The evacuation] went well. It was a bit chaotic but generally speaking it went well. We’re still waiting for the second half.” The group is only allowed a carry on for each person. Belair said the rest of the luggage is supposed to be shipped to everyone’s houses, but they don’t know when that will happen.
Protests demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise have claimed several lives over the past week.
Protesters are angry about skyrocketing inflation and the government’s failure to prosecute embezzlement from a multi-billion Venezuelan program that sent discounted oil to Haiti.
The Canadian Press, with files from CityNews Montreal