Americans return home from Cuba in 2 US-chartered flights during coronavirus pandemic

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – An anxious father rushed to carry his three-year-old daughter Isabel on Friday at Miami International Airport. It was an emotional reunion that he had been dreaming of for weeks.

She and her mother arrived from Havana in Delta Airlines’ Flight 8873, which had about 170 other passengers. They were among the 300 U.S. citizens who had been stranded in Cuba since authorities suspended flights earlier this month.

A woman greets her father who was repatriated Friday and arrived at Miami International Airport from Cuba. (Local 10 News)

The U.S. State Department chartered the flight to rescue U.S. citizens who had to pay about $300. Angela Kim said she was overjoyed to see her 77-year-old father, Alberto Kim, arrive from Havana.

“I am a proud American because the U.S. Embassy heard my cry to get my father out of the country,” Kim said in tears.

Mara Tekach, Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, said the U.S. State Department has repatriated more than 65,000 U.S. Citizens from over 55 countries.

Camilo Condis, a Havana resident, said he has seen the situation deteriorate. He said COVID-19, the contagious respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, is spreading.

“We have hundreds, maybe thousands of people in one place doing very long lines, so it’s very messy and it’s very dangerous," Condis said, adding that “things are more difficult than ever.”

Condis, a Cuban entrepreneur, said there are food shortages and less income. He said the Cuban government is issuing regular reports about the government’s efforts to contain the disease.

“They are doing these daily press conferences," Condis said, adding that he appreciates the updates.

Cuban officials reported Friday 49 people have died of COVID-19 and there are more than 1,200 cases confirmed.

The U.S. State Department is asking U.S. Citizens who need help to leave Cuba during the pandemic to fill out this form online.

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.