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Tension remain in New Caledonia, while tourists stat to evacuate



Tension remains high this Saturday in New Caledonia, where the mission to “re-establish order in the coming days”, set by President Emmanuel Macron during his express visit, is proving difficult to fulfill.

Despite a situation that remains “difficult”, according to Marie Guévenoux, Minister Delegate for Overseas France, who has remained on the island since the head of state’s visit, the first evacuations of tourists trapped for ten days in the archipelago began on Saturday, thanks to rotations of military aircraft from Nouméa’s Magenta airfield to Australia and New Zealand.

“The wait was interminable since the reopening of the airport is postponed day after day,”  one of the tourists told AFP. Roadblocks continue to hamper traffic. On Friday night, around 30 people had to be evacuated from a neighborhood in Nouméa due to fire and looting. Many houses were looted, and the looters are not necessarily the same people who are manning the roadblocks.
Easing tensions

The FLNKS (Front de libération nationale kanak et socialiste) itself admitted on Saturday that “today, the main objective is to ease tensions and find lasting solutions for our country”.
The pro-independence faction is still calling for the withdrawal of the constitutional revision of the electoral body, which they believe could further marginalize the Kanak people’s voice and which the government was recently planning to put to a vote in Congress in June. But they also “take note of the de-escalation process proposed by the President of the Republic and of the commitments requested of each of the parties, so as to be able to emerge from this crisis on a positive note.”.
“The day before, however, Christian Tein, leader of the CCAT, the pro-independence collective organizing the protests, had warned that “our population is being severely repressed (…)”.

Seventh victim

Seven people have now died as a result of the violence as of Friday. The seventh victim was a 48-year-old man who was killed in Dumbéa (near Nouméa) by an off-duty police officer who opened fire while being ambushed by about 20 people at a roadblock. His identity is unknown.
Between the districts of Ducos and Kaméré, a dozen backhoe loaders were busy clearing away piles of burning debris on Saturday under the watchful eye of gendarmes securing the area, an AFP journalist observed. The Raid was the first to intervene to secure the passage of the convoy, under the incessant noise of the blades of a helicopter flying over the area. Trucks and sweepers close the way to clear away the debris.
Marie Guévenoux confirmed that the state of emergency would not be lifted immediately. This can only be done “if the blockades are lifted and calm is restored”.

One billion euros in damage

The amount of damage continues to soar. According to the archipelago’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, losses could approach one billion euros after an initial estimate of 200 million. Last June’s urban riots in France triggered claims worth 800 million euros, on a much wider scale. The violence and intensity of the riots in New Caledonia in the space of ten days are striking. The main insurers are Allianz, Groupama, SMA BTP and Australia’s QBE.
At a meeting in Bercy this week, insurers and bankers put in place measures to facilitate the compensation process and ease the financial burden, particularly for businesses. The French Banking Federation (FBF) recalled the mobilization of the 1,200 bank employees on the island and announced several measures, including the postponement of payment deadlines for up to 90 days. Consideration is also being given to the introduction of guaranteed loans.

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