Model stranded at sea makes last-ditch flight home
A FORMER Coolum resident and international model is making a desperate last-ditch attempt to return to the Sunshine Coast, having been stranded at sea.
Aquila Bergstrom, 29, has been in "paradise", touring the globe on a mega yacht, but now been forced to leave behind employment and an income.
As international travel restrictions heighten in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, Ms Bergstrom will soon be en route to Sydney, having secured the final flight home out of Miami.
At the time of writing, Ms Bergstrom was hopeful but concerned her flight could be cancelled.
"I got the last flight out of Miami but who knows if it will be cancelled or delayed," Ms Bergstrom said.
"I've been pretty distraught not knowing if I could even clear customs, but I have done.
"I don't know what the go is with getting to Coolum with my family. Some people are saying I can't go home.
"Even the most free-spirited travellers have a place they go to for refuge - a place they not only trust but rely on. For me, that's with my family back on the Sunshine Coast."
On a dodgy network, Ms Bergstrom has been making distressed calls to the Australian Embassy and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade over Skype for help and support.
Ms Bergstrom, who is documenting her unfolding events on social media, fears hundreds of Australians will soon be unable to return home as the United States struggles to control the sweeping coronavirus crisis.
The US has recorded more than 140,000 cases with a death toll of almost 2500 - staggering numbers, compared with the Sunshine Coast's 70 cases.
"I'm scared - terrified, actually - for their sake," she said, speaking about her Australian friends stuck in the States.
"Because when it does sink in that this isn't just a flu, and it isn't going away anytime soon, and it is even killing young people with no prior medical issues, by that point it will be too late to go home.
"How will they get home when flights are so insanely unreliable?"
Since March 17, when Australians were advised to return home as soon as possible, an estimated 200,000 citizens and permanent residents did so.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said the government will consider supporting Australian airlines to operate non-scheduled services to less central locations to bring Australians home.
"These will only be done where it is feasible, where all other commercial options have been exhausted and where local authorities will permit such flights and on a case-by-case basis," the spokesman said.
"Non-scheduled services will be carried out on a commercial basis.
"It may also be necessary for some Australians to remain where they are overseas, and as far as practicable remain safe and comfortable, including by following directions of local authorities."
Australians requiring urgent consular assistance should call DFAT's Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 153 from Australia or +61 6261 3305 from overseas.
"DFAT urges travellers in need of emergency financial assistance to, in the first instance, contact family, friends, their travel insurer or financial institution. In exceptional circumstances, and once all other avenues have been explored, consular officers at embassies, high commissions and consulates overseas may provide a small Traveller Emergency Loan aimed at tiding travellers over until they can access funds and/or return to Australia."