New Caledonia tourists 'ecstatic' as rescue planes dispatched

New Caledonia tourists ‘ecstatic’ as rescue planes dispatched

/ 11:21 AM May 21, 2024

New Caledonia tourists 'ecstatic' as rescue planes dispatched

This photograph shows a Kanak flag waving next to a burning vehicle at an independantist roadblock at La Tamoa, in the commune of Paita, France’s Pacific territory of New Caledonia on May 19, 2024. French forces smashed through about 60 road blocks to clear the way from conflict-stricken New Caledonia’s capital to the airport but have still not reopened the route, a top government official said on May 19, 2024. Agence France-Presse

WELLINGTON — Australia and New Zealand announced three planes will be sent to the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia on Tuesday to rescue hundreds of tourists who have been barricaded in hotels during a week of deadly unrest.

In Wellington, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said New Zealand was dispatching a plane immediately after receiving long-delayed landing permission from French authorities.


New Caledonia’s main Tontouta International Airport usually brings in a steady stream of tourists looking for a relaxing break in paradise.


READ: France deploys troops, bans TikTok to quell New Caledonia unrest

But for the past week, it has received military planes laden with heavily armed French security forces trying to put down violent protests against Paris rule.

Peters said the first New Zealand aircraft would bring “50 passengers with the most pressing needs” back to Auckland.

It would, he said, be the “first in a series of proposed flights to begin bringing New Zealanders home”.

Shortly after the announcement, his counterpart Penny Wong said Australia had received permission to send two planes.

More than 3,000 people are estimated to have been stranded by a week of unrest that has shuttered the Pacific archipelago’s main international airport.


READ: New Caledonia votes to stay French in referendum: results

Many of them are Australian and New Zealand tourists stuck in resorts and hotels with dwindling supplies of food.

Australian tourist Maxwell Winchester and his wife Tiffany have been barricaded at a resort between Noumea and the airport for more than a week.

He told AFP on Tuesday that they were “ecstatic” at the prospect of impending rescue.

“We realise we probably won’t get on these flights, because those who have higher needs will get on them, but we at least know we have a way out in the next few days,” he said.

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Tourists have told AFP of food shortages, gunfire, and reports of arson and looting near resorts, leaving them fearful for their safety.

TAGS: France, New Caledonia, tourists, Unrest

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