PARIS (Reuters) – France has mobilised hundreds of police to regain control of the main road linking the airport to New Caledonia capital Noumea and restore order after days of unrest, the French minister of interior Gerald Darmanin said in a post on X late on Saturday.

More than 600 police were mobilised to clear barricades placed by groups blocking the 60 kilometre (37-mile) road, he said, with 100 of the gendarmes being part of a special, heavily armed unit.

Unrest broke out earlier in the week in the French-ruled territory in the South Pacific, sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment approved by lawmakers in Paris. The territory has struggled since then to distribute food and medicine due to the road barricades, and the airport has been closed.

The constitutional change would allow French people who have lived in New Caledonia for at least 10 years to vote in provincial elections, which some local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.

The upheaval has led to the deaths of six people, and left cars and businesses burnt and shops looted. France declared a state of emergency on the island on Wednesday.

The situation was calmer on Saturday, the French High Commissioner for the territory said in a statement on Sunday, adding there had been two fires and looting, and that 230 rioters had been arrested.

The two main airlines serving New Caledonia have paused flights, leaving 3200 people stranded and waiting to leave or enter the island.

(Reporting by Layli Foroudi; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Brought to you by