Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

‘Escalating day by day’: Around 300 Australians remain stranded in New Caledonia

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun4,2024
Key Points
  • Six people have been killed in the Pacific island territory since unrest broke out this week.
  • The riots were sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a contested electoral reform.
  • It has resulted in burnt shops, torched cars and road barricades, cutting off access to medicine and food, authorities say.
Australians stranded in New Caledonia are rationing food as they wait for a way out of the troubled Pacific island territory after , travellers said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is working with around 300 Australians who have registered with the government.
Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said the defence force is “ready to fly” once commercial flights to the territory resume.

“French authorities advise the situation on the ground is preventing flights,” she wrote on social media platform X. “We continue to pursue approvals.”

Queue outside a petrol station.

Tensions remained high in Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, after days of riots as people queued to stock up on food and water supplies. Source: AAP / Chabaud Gill

Albanese was asked by journalists on Sunday about reports locals were running out of food and a pause in commercial flights.

“The Australian government is closely monitoring events in New Caledonia,” he told reporters.
“Commercial flights stopped a couple of days ago. We are looking at in what way we can provide assistance to Australians who are currently in New Caledonia.”

A sixth person was killed on Saturday and two others injured, officials said, as the French overseas territory experiences its worst unrest since the 1980s.

Australian claims ‘lack of communication’ from government

Australian citizen Taran Jenkins told SBS World News the French government had blocked an attempt for her family to leave New Caledonia on Sunday.
In an interview from a hotel in the country, Jenkins said she’d experienced a “lack of communication” from the Australian government.
“The situation has been escalating day by day … we ended up creating our own WhatsApp group with 85 people in two hours.”
She said a meeting with Australian officials on Sunday, nearly a week after the violence began “calmed some of the anxiety that’s been brewing”, and was welcome.
She questioned why there was a delay in Smartraveller , 24 hours after a state of emergency had been declared.

Jenkins said she also has New Zealand citizenship and felt more supported by the New Zealand government, because they had people who were already in the country when the unrest broke out.

Remnants of a gas station burned by rioters

At least six people, including a police official, have been killed in the unrest. Source: AAP / Chabaud Gill

The riots, sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a contested electoral reform, have resulted in burnt businesses, torched cars, looted shops and road barricades, cutting off access to medicine and food, authorities say.

The unrest could complicate President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to boost French influence in the Pacific.

Australians advised to limit movement

On Saturday, Wong said Australians in New Caledonia should limit their movement and follow the advice of authorities.

“We are working with authorities in France and New Caledonia and like-minded partners including New Zealand to assess options for Australians to safely depart,” she posted on X.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers urged Australians stuck in New Caledonia to .
“We’re incredibly concerned about the developments in New Caledonia. We call for calm in that part of the world,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“We know that there will be Australians, either in New Caledonia, or family members and loved ones here in Australia, who will be very concerned.”

“The kids are definitely hungry because we don’t really have much option of what we can feed them,” Joanne Elias from Sydney said on Saturday.
She was speaking from a resort in the capital Noumea, where her family has been holed up since the unrest broke out this week.
“You can tell they are running out of food,” she told Reuters by phone, referring to the resort where they are staying.
Elias, who arrived in the country on 10 May 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.

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

‘A no man’s land’

Brisbane woman Sophie Jones Bradshaw travelled to Noumea for work on 11 May.
She said her husband and three-year-old son were meant to visit her several days later, but the riots broke out. The family is now separated with no idea when they will be reunited.
“It’s getting really hard to see my son every day on the camera,” Bradshaw told the Australian Associated Press.

“I’m crying because he wants me to go home. I’m telling him ‘Oh, just one more sleep, one more sleep’, but I don’t know.”

Smoke rises from various places in an overview of an area in Noumea.

Bradshaw says the capital Noumea resembles a war zone. Source: AAP / Nicolas Job/AP

Bradshaw said there were explosions, fires and looting across the once beautiful capital that she has travelled to for 20 years.

“It’s desolation, it’s chaos — it’s frightening,” she said. “It feels like a no man’s land.”

It feels like a no man’s land.

Sophie Jones Bradshaw

She claimed half of the capital had been burnt with homes and businesses razed as the unrest continued.
“I hardly sleep at night as I go down in my street to help neighbours protecting it,” Bradshaw said. “I feel exhausted and scared like any Caledonian.”
Finding a loaf of bread is near impossible, Bradshaw said, with supplies to grocers blocked by road barricades. It was unclear when Bradshaw would be able to return to Brisbane.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has advised Bradshaw to register on a database so the agency was aware of who was in the country.
It told her to prepare to leave by packing her bags and charging all electronics but provided no timelines.

With reporting by Sydney Lang.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “‘Escalating day by day’: Around 300 Australians remain stranded in New Caledonia”
  1. It’s heartbreaking to hear about the escalating violence and unrest in New Caledonia. My thoughts are with the stranded Australians and the local community as they navigate through this challenging situation. Hopefully, a resolution is reached soon to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being.

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