14 Nov 2016

Tensions rise as New Caledonia road blocks continue

8:58 pm on 14 November 2016
Noumea municipal police facade

Noumea municipal police facade Photo: RNZ

A police attempt to try and break through a road block set up on the main road south of New Caledonia's capital, Noumea, by a group of armed Kanak men has been halted.

Police closed the road on Monday night because of the clashes, which come only two weeks after five police officers were shot during a confrontation which led to a three-day road block.

The territory's public broadcaster said the gendarmerie began an operation on Monday morning to try and break through the blockade, involving both helicopters and armoured vehicles, but that was later called off.

The broadcaster said explosions and gunfire were heard before the retreat, and the armed group was thought to be small, yet heavily armed.

The mayor of Monte-Dore said attacks were being carried out by dangerous and uncontrollable individuals, and Paris has pledged to send extra police to the territory.

Meanwhile, a resident of Monte-Dore, Tione Chinula, said residents were getting sick of the constant road blocks, which were making life in the south very difficult.

"The population is really just sick of it. Most people living out this way have to go out to Noumea for work and for everything really," she said in an interview. "The city council has set up sort of a ferry service for emergencies. Food supplies, there's one supermarket and I know what happened last time is that they ran out of a lot of stock, we also ran out of gas."

There has been no official word on when the road may reopen.

Firefighters shot at in north

Meanwhile, in a separate incident, New Caledonian firefighters abandoned work on a bushfire after being shot at north of Noumea.

The incident occured on the main road near Paita where unidentified gunment hit a fire engine and injured a firefighter.

Police helped rescue the injured man who has been taken to hospital.

As a result, the firefighters withdrew leaving the fire unchecked.

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