Help from above as Air Force Hercules shifts first Australians stranded in riots

A Royal Australian Air Force plane has touched down in New Caledonia after the federal government was given clearance for two flights to repatriate stranded citizens.

May 21, 2024, updated May 21, 2024


The French territory in the Pacific has been marred by deadly riots that have led to at least six deaths following controversial electoral reform being passed in Paris.

There are about 300 Australians in New Caledonia registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

A C-130 Hercules touched down in Noumea after leaving Amberley airbase outside of Brisbane on Tuesday, according to publicly available flight data.

It can carry 124 passengers, according to the Defence Department.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong says Australia will continue to work on further flights.

“Passengers are being prioritised based on need,” she wrote on social media platform X.

Australia’s Consul-General in New Caledonia Annelise Young posted on X her team had been working “round the clock with teams in Canberra and Paris and closely with the French authorities to ensure safe passage for Australian tourists”.

Senator Wong spoke with her New Zealand and French counterparts on Monday to request access to the territory.

The Australian Defence Force was on standby and was ready to fly as soon as permitted, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

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A New Zealand C-130 also flew to New Caledonia on Tuesday morning.

“New Zealanders in New Caledonia have faced a challenging few days and bringing them home has been an urgent priority for the government,” Foreign Minister Winston Peters said.

“In co-operation with France and Australia, we are working on subsequent flights in coming days.”

The New Zealand flight will carry about 50 passengers with the most pressing needs back to Auckland.Some 270 rioters have been arrested and a curfew from 6pm to 6am is in place.

France has sent in 1050 security personnel with hundreds more to join on Tuesday in a bid to quell the unrest.

The reopening of the international airport for commercial flights will be reassessed on Thursday.

Australia has urged people to reconsider their need to travel to New Caledonia. Those in the territory have been advised to limit their movement.

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