Stranded travelers struggle to get home as borders close


BERLIN (AP) — Traffic jams swelled along borders and some travelers appealed to their governments for help getting home Tuesday as countries in Europe and beyond imposed strict controls along their frontiers aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Tens of millions around the world are already hunkered down in government-ordered isolation after many countries ordered stores, schools and businesses shut down to combat the pandemic. The border closures stopped not only people but also needed goods.

Lines of cars and trucks grew after Poland largely closed its border to foreigners. In Lithuania, trucks seeking to enter Poland backed up in a line 60 kilometers (37 miles) long, while similar traffic jams could be seen on the borders with Germany and the Czech Republic.

Lithuania was sending military airplanes and special trains to Germany to help hundreds of its citizens stranded at the crossing points with Poland.

“We are all desperate cold and sleepless here for a third day. We just want to go home” said Janina Stukiene, who was stuck on the border with husband and son. She said authorities were providing no food, accommodation or adequate sanitation.

To try to help citizens from Estonia and Lithuania get home following closure of the Polish border, German police organized a convoy of vehicles to a ferry port on one of its Baltic Sea islands.

Germany launched a 50 million euro ($56 million) effort to bring home thousands stranded in popular winter vacation spots across the globe, including up to 5,000 in Morocco alone.

“Even if we will do everything humanly possible, we cannot in every case provide a solution within 24 hours,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned.

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