Australia and New Zealand evacuate scores of their citizens from New Caledonia

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The Australian military had flown 115 passengers in two flights from the restive French Pacific territory of New Caledonia and would continue to work with France to repatriate all Australians who want to leave, an Australian government minister said Wednesday.

Australian citizens accounted for 84 of the passengers who were flown in two Royal Australian Airforce C-130 Hercules from the capital Noumea to the Australian east coast city of Brisbane late Tuesday, Pacific Minister Pat Conroy said.

Conroy did not say what nationalities were among the remaining 31 passengers. But he said Australia had reciprocal arrangements with Canada and Japan to help their citizens in crises.

Another more than 200 Australians were registered with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to leave the South Pacific territory where a 12-day state of emergency has been declared.

“We’ve prioritized the elderly, the pregnant and the most vulnerable,” Conroy told Nine Network television.

“We’ll continue to work with the French government to make sure we get every

Australian out of New Caledonia who does want to leave,” Conroy added.

Conroy said he had been advised France was planning more flights to Brisbane on Wednesday.

“We’re working very hard to make sure as many Australians as possible are on those flights,” Conroy said.

A second round of 100 New Zealanders were being flown home from New Caledonia via Brisbane on Wednesday after around 100 were flown to the New Zealand city of Auckland on Tuesday night, The New Zealand Herald newspaper reported.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to land on Thursday on New Caledonia where Indigenous people have long sought independence.

Six people have been killed, including two police officers, and hundreds have been injured in New Caledonia during armed clashes, looting and arson, raising new questions about Macron’s handling of France’s colonial legacy.

The unrest erupted May 13 as the French legislature in Paris debated amending the French Constitution to make changes to New Caledonia voter lists. Opponents fear the measure will benefit pro-France politicians in New Caledonia and further marginalize Kanaks, who once suffered from strict segregation policies and widespread discrimination.

The road to New Caledonia’s international airport remained closed on Wednesday.

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