NZ’s first New Caledonia evacuation flight lands in Auckland

0
67
SHARE
Some of the passengers on the special flight out of New Caledonia
Some of the passengers on the special flight out of New Caledonia, after they had landed at Auckland Airport. Image: RNZ/Marika Khabazi

By Maia Ingoe, RNZ News journalist

A NZ Defence Force plane carrying 50 New Zealanders evacuated from New Caledonia landed at Auckland International Airport last night.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it would be working with France and Australia to ensure the safe departure of several evacuation flights amid civil unrest in the island state.

The efforts came as RNZ Pacific’s French Pacific correspondent Patrick Decloitre reported that President Emmanuel Macron would be flying to New Caledonia within hours to install a “dialogue mission” in the French Pacific dependency in the wake of violent riots for the past eight days.

The first flight took off from the capital of Nouméa after a short turnaround at Magenta local airport at 7pm, and landed in Auckland at about 10pm.

Those arriving to Auckland Airport on the NZ Defence Force plane said they were relieved to be back.

Many reunited with loved ones, while others were sent onto hospital for urgent medical treatment.

Some of the passengers on the special flight out of New Caledonia, after they had landed at Auckland Airport.
Some of the passengers on the special flight out of New Caledonia, after they had landed at Auckland Airport. Image: RNZ/Marika Khabazi

Chris and Mike Riley were arriving back from New Caledonia from what was meant to be a week-long trip.

‘Fireworks and gunfire’
Chris Riley said they heard lots of explosions, fireworks and gunfire from where they were.

“We were in a lovely place actually, it was quite peaceful, but we were trapped because we couldn’t get through because of all the troubles that were there,” she said.

Mike Riley said they were both relieved to be home.

“We’re not in a hurry to go anywhere apart from Kerikeri,” he said.

Carl, who did not provide a last name, was in a tourist area of New Caledonia for the past two weeks, which he said was sheltered from the riots.

He said it felt great to get on the Defence Force flight.

“It was a bit of a different type of trip back to New Zealand, but it was fun.”

Some of the passengers on the special flight out of New Caledonia, after they had landed at Auckland Airport.
Some of the passengers on the special flight out of New Caledonia, after they had landed at Auckland Airport. Image: RNZ/Marika Khabazi

La Tontouta still closed
Noumea’s La Tontouta International Airport remains closed.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said the New Zealanders on the flight would have had a security escort to the airport.

Pacific Island nations were among those which had sought New Zealand’s help to evacuate citizens, he said.

Peters said there would be more flights over the next few days to get all 250 New Zealanders out of the French Pacific territory, which has been in the grip of riots and political unrest between anti- and pro-independence groups.

He hoped another flight would leave for New Caledonia this morning.

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

NO COMMENTS