Macron heads to riot-hit French territory of New Caledonia as tourists evacuate

French President Emmanuel Macron will visit riot-hit New Caledonia, Paris said Tuesday, as tourists are evacuated from the Pacific territory that has suffered over a week of unrest.

Macron "will leave as soon as this evening," government spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot said, hoping to soothe tempers over his government's voting reform plans rejected by indigenous Kanaks.

Earlier Tuesday an Australian Air Force transport aircraft evacuated trapped tourists from a small domestic airport in New Caledonia's capital Noumea, as separatist roadblocks still hinder access to the international hub.

Australia and New Zealand sent an initial batch of planes to Noumea Magenta airport, where AFP correspondents saw the first Australian C-130 Hercules aircraft land and several coaches waiting.

"Passengers are being prioritised based on need. We continue to work on further flights," Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on social media, announcing two initial flights.

The first transport with evacuees landed in Brisbane in eastern Australia around 7:00 pm (0900 GMT) Tuesday.

Australian tourist Maxwell Winchester said he and his wife Tiffany were "ecstatic" to hear evacuation flights had begun after being stuck in a barricaded resort for a week.

The French authorities in New Caledonia said police had so far arrested nearly 270 "rioters".


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