Florida overseas travelers struggling to return home due to travel restrictions

MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, FLA. (WSVN) - Families from Florida that have traveled overseas said they are feeling abandoned after the ban on flights from Europe went into effect, but they are determined to make it back home.

They join thousands of other Americans who are stuck abroad and have been trying to return to the United States for more than a week.

The State Department has formed a repatriation task force, but Floridians who are currently stranded overseas still think the federal government is doing too little, too late.

One of them is Vanessa Leroy, who is trying to return to South Florida from Accara, Ghana.

“I feel anxious, because I do not know. There’s a lot of uncertainty,” she said.

Leroy said her trip to visit the country’s capital and see where her husband is from was going well until her flight home was cancelled.

“I’ve been in contact with the embassy. I’ve sent them emails,” she said. “They’ve responded. It seems like more of an automatic response.”

Leroy is the development services director for Hallandale Beach. While stuck in Ghana, she said, she is still working on zoning and code compliance issues.

When she can set aside city business, she tries to secure a flight home.

“I’ve had several flights that have been cancelled, and I have another flight that is supposedly still on schedule for tomorrow, and I’ll try and see if we can make that,” she said.

Last week, 7News spoke with Ralph Rico, who was quickly running out of heart medication while stuck in Lima, Peru with his wife and two children. Pharmacies there have since reopened, and he said his prescription has been filled in the nick of time.

However, Rico said, he still cannot get home to Homestead.

When asked if he has received help from the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Rico said, “We are basically in the dark. We have no idea if it’s a week, two weeks. They just say they’re working on it.”

“My main concern is that: the unknown. Until when am I going to be here?” said Ingrid Vega, Rico’s wife.

While Rico’s family is still stuck. U.S. State Department officials said they have been able to repatriate more than 5,000 Americans. However, they said, 13,500 Americans overseas have reached out to them for help getting home.

Brian Johnson, who lives in Land O’ Lakes, Florida, spoke to 7News from the airport in Munich, Germany.

“This is the airport terminal right here. Yeah, it is completely dead,” he said as he showed video of a nearly empty terminal.

Johnson said he just managed to board a nearly empty flight there from Vienna, where he was staying for a business trip. In Austria, he contacted the State Department for help.

“Their response, and I kid you not, was that if I am having trouble finding a flight, I should check Google Flights or Expedia for alternatives,” he said.

Tuesday night, he is sleeping at the airport.

“You’re seeing it right here, on this very Bavarian wooden bench,” he said.

But Johnson said he believes he’s found commercial flights home. He is set to start the two-day journey home by flying from Munich to Newark, then Houston to Tampa, and he hopes he’ll then be able to drive to Land O’ Lakes.

“I am taking the world tour back home, buddy. I think it is going to be 36 to 40 hours,” he said.

While the State Department has not been able to help get home even half of the Americans seeking assistance, officials said they will be able to secure flights home for more American travelers in the coming days.

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