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Missionaries and nurses trapped in Haiti as protests sweep country

A group of 24 Canadian missionaries and another of nurses are among visitors stranded in Haiti by ongoing street protests sweeping through the Caribbean country.

The missionaries have been confined to their compound in Grand Goâve, an area roughly 50 kilometers away from capital city Port-au-Prince, after nearby roads littered with burning tires were blocked, according to a statement from their group 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,” he adds.

Haiti has been gripped by protests and unrest for more than a week, as demonstrators calling for the country’s president to resign over soaring inflation and allegations of corruption have set cars ablaze and clashed with police.

Several people have been killed in the clashes, according to local media reports.

Meanwhile, an additional group of eight Canadian who were also trapped inside their charity’s compound have 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 added on the reasons for the protests. “They have zero healthcare… they’re taking desperate measures to try and make a change for themselves.”

The helicopter secured will 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 had written in their GoFundMe appeal, which surpassed its target by raising $16,000. “It is unlikely we will pass those barriers without being harmed,” they added.

Because of the Canadian Embassy closure in Haiti, their calls to the embassy have been redirected to Ottawa and have gone unanswered, they note.

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 saying: “avoid all travel to Haiti” and closed their embassy Friday for “security reasons” according to Canada’s Foreign Policy account on Twitter.

An additional group of 113 Canadian tourists stranded at a beach resort are also scheduled to be evacuated on Saturday.

President Jovenel Moise was defiant in a televised address on Thursday, rejecting calls to resign and saying he “will not leave the country in the hands of armed gangs and drug traffickers.”

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