Flights Available to Evacuate Citizens Trapped in Troubled New Caledonia

Both the Australian and New Zealand Defence Force are on their way to New Caledonia to rescue people trapped there by days of bloody violence.

The foreign affairs ministers of Australia and New Zealand have announced flights will be leaving Nouméa to evacuate citizens trapped in the Pacific territory of New Caledonia after days of rioting and violence.

So far, the unrest, instigated by a socialist-led independence movement, has resulted in the deaths of six people, and major destruction to buildings.

Australia said it will prioritise people based on need, and other flights are likely to be sent in the coming days.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is contacting citizens registered with its Canberra-based crisis service to advise them of the arrival of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) plane.

No details have been released on the number of people expecting rescue, but New Zealand says it will take 50 with “the most pressing needs.”

It’s estimated there are more than 300 Australians and about 250 New Zealanders trapped on the island. In total, around 3,200 foreign nationals are awaiting evacuation.

The New Zealand, French, and Australian foreign ministers held a joint call on May 20 evening, after the two Pacific countries said were awaiting clearance from French authorities to send defence aircraft.

A meeting of France’s defence council later agreed on these arrangements.

France’s High Commission in New Caledonia said the airport will remain closed to commercial flights, and the military will be deployed to protect it.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said: “New Zealanders in New Caledonia have faced a challenging few days, and bringing them home has been an urgent priority for the government. We want to acknowledge the support of relevant authorities, both in Paris and Nouméa, in facilitating this flight.”

He added that further flights will be sent when possible.

“The situation in New Caledonia remains dynamic, and New Zealand officials are continuing to work with French counterparts and other partners especially Australia to understand what is needed to ensure the safety of our people there,” Mr. Peters warned.


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