New Caledonia’s Nouméa airport closed until Tuesday, says Air New Zealand

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Air New Zealand scheduled Saturday flight to Nouméa's Tontouta International Airport off
Air New Zealand's scheduled Saturday flight to Nouméa's Tontouta International Airport off . . . airport closed to civilian traffic during state of emergency. Image: RNZ File/Nate McKinnon

Air New Zealand has confirmed Nouméa’s Tontouta International airport in New Caledonia is closed until Tuesday.

The airline earlier told RNZ it would update customers as soon as it could.

Earlier today, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters told RNZ Morning Report government officials had been working on an “hourly basis” to see what could be done to help New Zealanders wanting to leave.

That included RNZ Air Force or using a commercial airline.

More than 200 New Zealanders were registered as being in the French Pacific territory. His advice to them was to stay in place and keep in contact.

A 12-day state of emergency was declared in the territory, at least 10 people were under house arrest, and TikTok has been banned.

RNZ Pacific said there were food and fuel shortages as well as problems accessing medications and healthcare services.

Biggest concerns
Before the closure of the airport, Wellington researcher Barbara Graham — who has been in Nouméa for five weeks — said the main issue was “the road to the airport . . .  and I understand it still impassable because of the danger there, the roadblocks and the violent groups of people”.

Airlines were looking to taking bigger planes to get more people out and were working with the airport to ensure the ground crew were also available, Graham said.

She said she was reasonably distant from the violence but had seen the devastation when moving accommodation.

Wellingtonian Emma Royland was staying at the University of New Caledonia and hoped to wait out the civil unrest, if she could procure enough food.

“Ideally the university will step in to take care of us, ideally although we must admit that the university themselves are also under a lot of hardship and they also will be having difficulties sourcing the food.”

The couple of hundred students at the university were provided with instant noodles, chips and biscuits, Royland said.

She went into town to try and find food but there were shortages and long queues, she said.

“It probably is one of my biggest concerns is actually being able to get into the city, as I stand here I can see the smoke obscuring the city from last night’s riots and it is a very big concern of being able to get that food, that would be the only reason that I would have to leave New Caledonia.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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