B.C. travellers hunker down as violence flares in Mexican state of Sinaloa

B.C. travellers hunker down as violence flares in Mexican state of Sinaloa

British Columbian travelers in Mazatlán say they are settling into rental accommodation and resorts amid a wave of violence erupts in Mexico’s Sinaloa state.

Violence erupted in the state on Thursday after police arrested suspected drug cartel leader Ovidio Guzman, a son of jailed Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

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Much of the violence appears to be centered in the town of Culiacan, where airline Aeromexico said one of its passenger planes was hit by a bullet during the fighting.

However, three airports, including the one in Mazatlán, have been closed and Canada has issued a state-wide travel advisory.

“All we know tonight is that we’re safe, we’re with friends. I’ve reached out to my family and let them know we’re fine,” Mark Lockhart of Nanaimo, BC, who lived near town with his wife and friends, told Global News Thursday night.

Lockhart and his companions didn’t realize what was going on until Thursday morning when they tried to take a trip to the beach, only to find the streets in chaos.

A burning truck on the highway near Mazatlán.

Markus Lockhart

“We saw those two trucks on fire… and we got turned around, so we went over the overpass and there was another truck on fire, blocking all access to Mazatlán Airport,” he said.

They returned to their accommodation where they found out from a local connection what was going on and decided to stay put.

“(We have friends) were hiding out in an apartment downtown. As soon as the action started this morning, they were told by the government to get off the streets immediately, lock away and stay safe,” he said.

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“We’re going to take our friends’ advice … and stay home tonight, we’ve got a nice little backyard here, we can keep our cool and we’ll watch the hockey game.”

Chilliwack resident Donna Arellano and friends were about to leave their resort for a city tour Thursday morning when the bus driver told them the tour had been canceled due to the fighting.

“Honestly it’s scary, but what can we do? We’re here now and it’s not safe for us to leave the resort, that’s for sure,” she said.

Arellano said the group tried to make the best of the situation, swimming and going to the resort’s beach, where they felt safe.

However, the group was due to fly out on Friday afternoon and are unsure of what happens next.

She said her airline hasn’t told them yet if the flight will go ahead, adding she was nervous at the idea of ​​whether the violence was yet to subside.

“We have to drive about half an hour from our resort to the airport, and that’s on the freeway,” she said. “It’s kind of scary because this morning they shot one of Aeromexico’s planes, from the other airport they shot it. So that’s kind of scary for us.”

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Lockhart also said his travel plans are now up in the air.

His group was due to fly out on Saturday, but he said he wasn’t sure if the airports would be back up and running by then.

“It’s beginning to look like that’s not going to happen. There are rumors that the airports won’t open until Monday,” he said. “Lets see what happens.”

The federal government’s updated travel advisory for the country notes “widespread violent and security operations” in the state of Sinaloa, particularly in Culiacan, Mazatlán, Los Mochis and Guasave.

The notice says Culiacan and Mazatlán airports are closed and all flights at Los Mochis airport have been suspended until further notice. Burning cars, gunfire and threats to essential infrastructure have been reported in the affected areas, officials added.

Canadians in Sinaloa should try to stay put and “avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place” and not cross roadblocks set up by either law enforcement or gang members.

– with files by Sean Boynton and Aaron McArthur

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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