MONTREAL -- A group of Quebec high school students on a humanitarian mission to Guatemala landed at a Montreal airport today after they were scooped out of the Central American country on a chartered plane minutes before its borders closed.

Helene Dumais, spokeswoman for the students' school board, said the 50 passengers were on the last plane out of Guatemala City, less than one week after they had arrived in the country to work in a centre for disabled people.

Marco Prud'Homme, president of the chartered airline company hired by the school board, said the Boeing 737-200 left the airport Monday less than 45 minutes before the border was ordered to close at midnight.

Reuters reported Monday that Guatemala planned to close its borders for two weeks in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on its territory.

Dumais says the school board had been struggling for days to find a flight home for the students, who attend Ecole Louis-Philippe Pare on Montreal's south shore.

She says the order was to get them home as fast as possible and that parents will not have to assume the costs of the chartered flight.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2020.