Crisis-hit Ecuador city blocks Iberia plane from landing

A plane operated by Spanish carrier Iberia sent to Ecuador to pick up stranded foreigners was prevented from landing at an airport in Guayaquil, which is under lockdown over the coronavirus, officials said Thursday.

Cynthia Viteri, mayor of Ecuador's second city, said she ordered vehicles to block the runway of the international airport to prevent the plane from landing.

"I take responsibility for sending vehicles from the municipality of Guayaquil to prevent the Iberia plane from landing with 11 passengers from Madrid," Viteri said in a video posted on social media.

The flight from Madrid, with only crew aboard, was able to land later in Quito.

Ecuador has banned all flights since Monday to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

However, the transport ministry said it was allowing empty planes to arrive in order to collect foreigners trying to leave the country, and it condemned the mayor's actions, saying they "complicated planned aviation activity."

Prosecutors have launched an investigation into the incident.

Viteri said she ordered the plane blocked because the surrounding province of Guayas is isolated from the rest of the country and has the largest number of the country's infections -- 128 of the 168 cases registered to date.

"I take responsibility for protecting my city," she said.