Australians Stranded in New Caledonia Ration Food Amid Deadly Unrest

Australians Stranded in New Caledonia Ration Food Amid Deadly Unrest

Australians stranded in New Caledonia are rationing food as they await a way out of the Pacific island territory amid unrest that has claimed six lives, a traveller from Sydney reported on Saturday. These Australians are among 3,200 individuals stuck due to the cancellation of commercial flights caused by the recent turmoil, according to the local government.

“The kids are definitely hungry because we don’t really have much option of what we can feed them,” Joanne Elias told Reuters by phone from a resort in the capital Noumea, where her family has taken refuge.

The riots erupted due to anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment approved by lawmakers in Paris. This amendment would allow French people who have lived in New Caledonia for at least 10 years to vote in provincial elections, which some local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.

Five nights of upheaval have led to burnt businesses, torched cars, looted shops, and road barricades, cutting off access to medicine and food. Three indigenous Kanak and two police officers were among those killed. A sixth person was killed, and two were seriously injured on Saturday during a gun battle at a roadblock in Kaala-Gomen, according to French police.

In an effort to regain control of the capital, hundreds of French police reinforcements began arriving on Friday. Elias, who has been in the territory since May 10 with her husband and four children, mentioned she had been advised to fill a bathtub in case the water supply ran out, as food stocks were dwindling. “We don’t know how long we’re going to be here for,” she said, noting her family was among about 30 Australians stuck at the Chateau Royal resort.

Aircalin plans to resume flights on Tuesday when Tontouta airport is expected to reopen, while Air Caledonie has no flights planned for the time being, according to the airlines. The resort declined to comment on the situation for security reasons.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong stated that Canberra was “working with authorities in France and New Caledonia, and like-minded partners including New Zealand, to assess options for Australians to safely depart.” In a social media post on Saturday, she added that Noumea’s La Tontouta International Airport remained closed and urged Australians “to exercise a high degree of caution in New Caledonia.”

On Friday, the U.S. advised citizens to “reconsider travel to New Caledonia due to civil unrest and crime.” The New Caledonia government said the island had enough food for two months, but distribution was the issue. French officials stated that operations to supply food and medicine would begin with teams including mine-clearing specialists removing road barricades booby-trapped by activists.

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