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‘It was terrifying’ - Norfolk woman flees Panama music festival due to coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 12:00 24 March 2020

Charlie Harman had to flee Tribal Gathering festival in Panama during coronavirus. PIcture: Charlie Harman

Charlie Harman had to flee Tribal Gathering festival in Panama during coronavirus. PIcture: Charlie Harman

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A Norfolk woman has described how she dramatically fled a music festival where others have been left stranded during the coronavirus outbreak.

Charlie Harman secured a job at Tribal Gathering festival in Panama but was forced to flee. Picture: Charlie HarmanCharlie Harman secured a job at Tribal Gathering festival in Panama but was forced to flee. Picture: Charlie Harman

Charlie Harman, from Great Massingham, started the job of a lifetime on the service desk at Tribal Gathering festival in Panama in early February.

But as Panama announced its first death from Covid-19 on March 10 a state of emergency was declared, leaving festival-goers and staff unsure about their next steps as rumours circulated of a lockdown.

Charlie Harman said the ordeal was 'absolute chaos'. Picture: Charlie HarmanCharlie Harman said the ordeal was 'absolute chaos'. Picture: Charlie Harman

The 28-year-old said: “The government acted very quickly and the information changed on a daily basis. It was difficult to know what was going on as there was no signal or wifi at the festival site.”

She added the site was patrolled by the military and medical staff and it was unclear whether people were allowed to leave.

Miss Harman added: “We were told people who had been in Panama for two weeks could leave so we organised shuttle buses. Five then arrived and we loaded people on to them but they were turned around by the authorities. We just turned our attention to organising everything. It felt good to tackle this all in the face of adversity and in a way seeing everyone pull together affirmed my faith in humanity.”

But soon the situation escalated and Miss Harman was told she may not be able to travel to an airport until March 23.

She added: “We had just resigned ourselves to the fact we might need to stay here a long time. I felt frightened, worried and unsure but most of all powerless as to how to help other people as the information we received was unreliable. Plus we were unsure how long supplies such as food and water would last us if we needed to stay indefinitely.”

But in a moment she described as “terrifying”, Miss Harman received news a car was available and left half her belongings in a late night rush to catch the transport.

She said: “It was absolute chaos. I jumped into a 4X4 and we left the site to wait for a shuttle bus to take us to the airport. We were left waiting for seven hours and we had not food or water and didn’t have any idea if it would arrive. Eventually it showed up, but a three-hour journey ended up taking nine hours because of police road blocks. Fortunately, catching the flight was easy.”

Miss Harman flew back to Norfolk via Mexico on March 18 but said: “I still know people trapped on the site. It is wild.”

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