Aussies stranded in New Caledonia ‘running out of food’

Australians are trapped at a resort in New Caledonia as riots continue.

Australians are trapped at a resort in New Caledonia as riots continue. Photo: Getty/TND

Australians stranded in New Caledonia are rationing food as they wait for a way out of the troubled Pacific island territory where riots have killed six people, a traveller from Sydney says.

They are among 3200 people who are stuck waiting to leave or enter the French-ruled territory as commercial flights have been cancelled due to the unrest that broke out during the week, the local government said.

“The kids are definitely hungry because we don’t really have much option of what we can feed them,” Joanne Elias said on Saturday from a resort in the capital Noumea, where her family has been holed up.

“You can tell they are running out of food,” she told Reuters by phone, referring to the resort where they are staying.

The riots have been sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment approved by MPs in Paris that 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 resulted in 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 seriously injured on Saturday during a gun battle between two groups at a roadblock in Kaala-Gomen, French police said, without identifying the groups.

Hundreds of French police reinforcements began arriving on Friday to regain control of the capital.

Elias, who arrived in the country on May 10 with her husband and four children, said she had been told to fill a bathtub in case water ran out, as food stocks dwindled.

“We don’t know how long we’re going to be here for,” she said, adding that 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 and Air Caledonie has no flights planned for the time being, the airlines said.

The resort declined to comment on the situation, citing security reasons.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said 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”.

The US advised citizens to “reconsider travel to New Caledonia due to  civil unrest and crime” on Friday.

The New Caledonia government on Friday said the island had stocks of food for two months and the problem was distribution.

Operations to supply food and medicine to the public will begin with teams including specialists in mine clearing, removing road barricades that were booby-trapped by activists, French officials have said.

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