Saturday 18 May 2024

Hundreds stranded as chaos continues in Pacific paradise

It is not how most of us envisage New Caledonia. We tend to think of images like the one above.

But the political unrest in Noumea has led to scenes that are a long way from the idyllic beaches and French style we usually associate with the destination.

We've seen the ugliness on TV news bulletins; burning cars, smouldering buildings, broken windows and angry mobs roaming the streets.

They are scenes that will impact the tourism industry on Noumea for years to come.

France, the colonial ruling power, has declared as a state of emergency and extra police and troops are on the scene after six deaths.

The rioting followed planned changes to the New Caledonia constitution to allow long-term residents to vote in local elections, even if they no longer called the island home. 

Thousands of tourists, including Hundreds of Australians, now find themselves trapped on the island with their dream holiday having turned into a nightmare.

The airport, however, remains closed with protestors blocking entry roads.

Local carrier Aircalin, Qantas, Air New Zealand have all cancelled services indefinitely, while cruise ships are re-routing their ships.

Noumea has been one of the most popular and frequently visited destinations on cruise voyages from Australia. Whether that will return to normal remains to be seen.

Qantas has reported the airport will be closed until at least Tuesday. And those stranded have complained of zero assistance, or information, from consular officials and Australian government officials. 

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