Sioux Falls mother stranded in Guatemala amid pandemic

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (DAKOTA NEWS NOW) - When Amber Pena boarded a plane in Sioux Falls March 1, she hugged her three children, thanked her mom and brother for watching the kids, and set off for an adventure in Guatemala. That was before the coronavirus threat.

Amber Pena's flight from Guatemala back to Sioux Falls was canceled after the coronavirus threat swept across the globe

"I was supposed to return to America March 18 but they canceled my flight two days before," said Pena.

Flights are occasionally available but at almost three times the price. Amber's mom Jessica Siers says the family is left in a difficult position.

"When she tried to come back they stopped all travel. And now, they have the tickets up too high for us to even bring her back. They want a thousand dollars to bring her out of Guatemala and that's a lot. Too much money for our...you know we don't make money like that," said Siers.

Families in both countries have called the US Embassy for help.
"They put me to an answering machine. I've been waiting for a call from them and nobody's calling me back. So we don't know what to do we're just stuck," said Siers.

Representatives with the State Department report that 9,000 us citizens have returned home from 28 countries, but that is just a fraction of those who are still stranded. The uncertainty takes a toll on Pena.

"It's depressing and sad because I'm away from my family. There's not much to do because I have to stay in lockdown. And I always have to leave out of here with a mask and stuff on to go to another town to buy my food and what I need," said Pena.

Meanwhile back home, amber's kids Crisana, Pablo and Cruz are being cared for by their Uncle and Grandma.

The family calls her to encourage her. It's the only thing they can do because the flight cost is just too high.

The State Department has brought approximately 9,000 citizens back home from 28 various countries. At least 40,000 have requested assistance to get back to the US.