From the comfort of her San Diego home, UCLA global studies student Maia Ferdman says what was supposed to be a quick release before school turned into a nightmare.
Ferdman managed to get a chartered flight back home from Hurricane Odile-ravaged Los Cabos, Mexico, on Friday morning. Ferdman was among 40 others who were flown to Los Angeles International Airport on a U.S. Air Force C-130.
"I don't think anybody expected it," she said.
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Authorities struggled Friday to restore services and calm residents days after Hurricane Odile knocked out power, water and phone service along the Baja Peninsula, sparking widespread looting in the resort area of Los Cabos.
An airlift involving military transport planes and commercial airliners evacuated more than 18,000 tourists in the last two days, Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, secretary of communications and transport, told the Associated Press.
"The State Department arranged four charter flights that evacuated more than 500 U.S. citizens over the past 24 hours. And so far, thousands of American citizens have departed the area on evacuation flights," U.S. State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told the AP.
Some LA residents stranded on a bus in the middle of Baja Thursday were in Tijuana and hoping to cross the border Friday evening.
Many people remain stuck at the airport in Cabo San Lucas, as commercial airlines such as American, Alaska and US Airways try to get them free flights out.
Ferdman thought her return ticket would secure her a seat on one of the flights.
"We were told we would have a guaranteed seat on it since we had tickets, but that's not happening for anybody," she said.
But Ferdman said that at the last-minute, the passengers on that plane found out the flight would cost $600 per person.
"There were people who decided to stay overnight in the pitch black to avoid paying for the chartered flight," she said.