Australians stranded in New Caledonia ‘running out of food’ amid civil unrest

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Australians stranded in New Caledonia are rationing food as they wait for a way out of the troubled Pacific island territory, after riots that killed four people, a traveler from Sydney said on Saturday.

“The kids are definitely hungry because we don’t really have much option of what we can feed them,” Joanne Elias said from a resort in the capital Noumea, where her family has been holed up since the unrest broke out this week.

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“You can tell they are running out of food,” she told Reuters by phone, referring to the resort where they are staying.

After three nights of upheaval, hundreds of French police reinforcements began arriving in the French-ruled territory on Friday in an effort to regain control of the capital.

The riots, sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a contested electoral reform, have resulted in burnt businesses, torched cars, looted shops and road barricades, cutting off access to medicine and food, authorities say.

At least four people, including a police official, have been killed in the unrest, which could complicate President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to boost French influence in the Pacific.

Elias, who arrived in the country on May 10 with her husband and four children, said she had been told to fill a bathtub in case water ran out, as food stocks dwindled.

“We don’t know how long we’re going to be here for,” she said, adding that her family was among about 30 Australians stuck at the Chateau Royal resort.

The resort declined to comment on the situation, citing security reasons.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The New Caledonia government said on Friday the island had stocks of food for two months and the problem was distribution.

Operations to supply food and medicine to the public will begin with teams, including specialists in mine clearing, removing road barricades that were booby-trapped by activists, French officials have said.

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