11 Jan 2019

Life sentences promised for New Caledonia arsonists

8:29 pm on 11 January 2019
New Caledonia's main hospital

New Caledonia's main hospital Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

New Caledonia's prosecutor says those who caused this week's fire in Koumac will be jailed for life.

The public broadcaster says such a sentence will be given because the fire caused the death of a volunteer firefighter Bertrand Pime.

Investigations are underway to establish who lit the blaze which over three days destroyed about 11 square kilometres of vegetation.

It is not immediately known if there are any suspects.

Bertrand Pime, who died in a Noumea hospital on Wednesday, has been honoured by the French High Commissioner who will posthumously bestow a medal on him for bravery.

Tributes have been paid by the Congress which held a minute's silence.

Betrand Pime's death, which is the first of a firefighter on duty in New Caledonia, has also been acknowledged by the French interior minister and the French overseas minister.