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Couple stuck in Guatemala after country closes borders amid coronavirus outbreak

Missi and Coca Avila are from South Carolina. After getting stuck in the country, Missi's sister, Kathryn, reached out to 6 News.

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala — Missi Avila and her husband Coca were traveling to Guatemala for a wedding, but their getaway turned into a nightmare after they got stuck in the country. 

They flew out of Charlotte, had a 14-hour layover in Fort Lauderdale and landed in Guatemala on March 12. 

"The next couple of days things kind of started happening really quickly here," Avila said. 

At the time they left, there were no reported cases of the coronavirus in Guatemala. 

"When we traveled, there were no restrictions. There was nothing going on. It's not like we were a couple of irresponsible people that decided to hop on a plane," Avila said. 

On Saturday, the day of the wedding, Avila said public gatherings were shutting down. According to the Overseas Security Advisory Council Bureau of Diplomatic Security Guatemala's President closed down the borders for 15 days on Monday due to the coronavirus.

"We rushed to the airport. The flights were already full for people who were already trying to get out," Avila said. "We just kind of stood there and watched as they canceled all of the flights. They shut the airport down right there in front of us."

Since then, they have tried to find a way out of the country.

"We had a few connections in South Carolina," Avila's sister Kathryn Robles said. "We've been reaching out to our senators and congressmen they've been reaching out to Washington."

Robles lives on Fort Hood and reached out to 6 News with her sister's story. 

"I first found out two days ago and I got some panicked calls from my mom and social media and my sister was just distraught," Robles said. 

Missi said she is mostly fluent in Spanish and was a missionary in the area when she met her husband. He is originally from Guatemala City. She said the situation they are in is changing often. 

"A lot of people think that foreigners are the ones that brought the virus. So you know, here I am walking around and sticking out like a sore thumb. I just don't feel safe," Avila said.

They have attempted to register with the embassy, but she said a guard told her to contact Guatemala's immigration office.

"I don't understand why its not possible to put a plane down there and get them. The other concern that I have the embassy down there not letting the American citizens passed the gate," Robles said.

Robles said the American government and hotlines in the states have been helpful. She said the issues they have experienced are from down in Guatemala. 

Missi said they are not the only people stuck and said other people from different countries are also not able to go home. She said she has been contacted by a South Carolina Congressman. 

Missi and her husband continue to work to find a way back home.

"I need to be there. I need to be preparing my home. I need to be getting my food ready. I need to be taking care of my kids," Avila said. 

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