New Caledonia in lockdown and airport closed after violent riots rock Noumea

Saint Joseph Cathedral and the Moselle Bay in Noumea, New Caledonia. The view from the hill of F.O.L.  Nouméa is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the waorld.

New Caledonia officials have announced a 6pm-6am curfew, a liquor ban and have closed the country’s main airport after overnight riots in which vehicles were torched and roads blocked in the wake of proposed constitutional reforms.

Australian Government website Smartraveller has issued an alert informing visitors to exercise a high degree of caution in metropolitan Noumea and the RT1 road to La Tontouta Airport due to the protests and demonstrations in the South Pacific French territory

“We’ve increased our level of advice for the Noumea metropolitan area and now advise exercise a high degree of caution due to protests and demonstrations,” it said.

“Political demonstrations and protests are occurring and may turn violent at short notice. A curfew has been issued for the Noumea metropolitan area from 6pm on 14 May to 6am 15 May.

“There’s potential for demonstrations in other locations. Essential services are impacted and flights have been cancelled. The La Tontouta International Airport has closed. Avoid demonstrations, public gatherings and roadblocks. Minimise movement, monitor the media and follow the advice of local authorities.”

Australians needing emergency consular assistance should contact the Australian Government’s 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135 (within Australia) or +61 2 6261 3305 (from overseas).

The protests and violence broke out ahead of a vote in the French National Assembly on changes to the New Caledonian constitution.

In a statement, the French High Commission in New Caledonia said there had been further significant and ongoing disturbances in the capital, Noumea and surrounding townships.

It advised that security forces had been mobilised and all gatherings had been banned in the greater Noumea area.

The statement also advised that there had been numerous injuries to local police, though no serious injuries amongst the general public, but police had recorded 36 arrests.

Demonstrations have been carried out across the capital by pro-independence activists in the last 10 days, as the National Assembly examines the constitutional bill aimed at enlarging the electorate of New Caledonia.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters has postponed his visit to New Caledonia, which had been scheduled for later this week.

“We are aware of events in New Caledonia, and hope that peace and calm will prevail,” a spokesperson for Mr Peters said.

(Feature image: Saint Joseph Cathedral and the Moselle Bay in Noumea, New Caledonia. The view from the hill above Nouméa. Image: iSstock)

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