As unrest continued Monday in Haiti, a church group from Chapin that had been stranded for two days finally made it safely to the airport and made their flight home.
The group, a Chapin United Methodist Church mission team of about a dozen mostly teens and young adults, had traveled to the Caribbean nation on June 30 and was set to leave Saturday, according to news outlets.
But they were forced to shelter in place after an announcement of a sharp hike in fuel prices sparked violent protests on Friday that continued into Saturday. That's when Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise announced the prices, set to rise 38 percent, would revert to their original rates.
"To those watching me tonight, I ask you all: go home," he said during an address on state television Saturday.
Even though the U.S. Embassy in Haiti continued to issue a travel advisory Monday, the Chapin group had made it to the Port-au-Prince airport Monday and was scheduled to leave on a mid-afternoon Delta Airlines flight. They arrived in Atlanta just after 7 p.m.
“Once they’re on the ground and I speak with Emily (Wheaton, team leader), we will post an ETA for Chapin,” church Pastor Jody Flowers wrote on a Facebook post earlier in the day.
On Monday afternoon, the Embassy issued a statement that said it is “aware flights are arriving to Port-au-Prince’s international airport. We continue to advise U.S. citizens to shelter in place at this time.”
Travelers were urged to use extreme caution as the main roads to the airport in the nation’s capital were still blocked, according to the release.
“Do not drive through roadblocks,” the advisory said. “Only go to the airport if you have a confirmed seat on a flight. Flights out of Haiti are currently overbooked. Expect large crowds and delays at the airport. Bring adequate food, water and other supplies.”
Earlier advisories said the airport had limited food and water available.
The team from Chapin, a town nearly Columbia in northern Lexington County, was one of several mission groups from the Southeast that were stranded by the violence.
The church members spent their week working with other church groups and Mission of Hope Haiti, a nonprofit that provides education, nutrition and healthcare in the poor nation. They stayed within the compound during the delay.
At least three people died and two police stations were set on fire during the rioting, according to The Miami Herald.