‘Ready to fly’: Race to pull Aussies in riot zone

Mr Albanese has urged people stuck in the French pacific territory to exercise high levels of caution. Picture: Monique Harmer/NCA NewsWire.

Anthony Albanese says the Australian Defence Force is ready to fly in to rescue hundreds of Australians who are trapped in New Caledonia amid riots “when it is permitted to do so”.

Violent protests have broken in the French-controlled South Pacific territory out plans to change voting rules, with at least six people killed and many others injured.

There are 300 Australians registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who want to leave the island after the international airport was closed and roads were blockaded by authorities.

France’s government has declared a state of emergency. Picture: Delphine Mayeur /AFP.
France’s government has declared a state of emergency. Picture: Delphine Mayeur /AFP.

Australian tourist Maxwell Winchester, who has been barricaded in a resort with his wife Tiffany for days, said he has been told to get ready to evacuate once the French government allows ADF personnel into the country.

He said there were still lots of abandoned cars on the Noumea highway that had been “booby-trapped” with homemade explosives.

He said there was still a “a lot of work to do” to clear off the hundreds of blockades that have obstructed the main roads.

“At this point it’s not looking great,” Mr Winchester told 2GB on Monday.

“We’re booked in for tomorrow to get out of here, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Mr Albanese urged those needing rescue to contact a 24-hour emergency support line on +61 262 613 305 and said troops were actively waiting to provide assistance once they are granted access into the territory.

“We know that the situation there is deeply concerning. We’re doing everything possible to help Australians on the ground,” he told ABC Radio Perth on Monday.

“We are working with the French authorities. They’re advising at the moment that the situation on the ground is preventing flights.

“We continue to pursue approvals because the Australian Defence Force is ready to fly when it’s permitted to do so.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Australians will be rescued from New Caledonia as soon as flights are allowed. Picture:NewsWire / Monique Harmer

Authorities in New Caledonia, which is located about 1200km off the east coast of Australia, have undertaken what they have called a “massive” mobilisation of security forces since unrest broke out over proposed reforms to the French Constitution that would change local voting laws.

Mr Albanese said Australia had been in contact with New Zealand to discuss next steps for citizens who are trapped in the territory and flagged that air force planes were waiting on standby.

Roads have been damaged and blocked off. Photo by Delphine Mayeur/AFP.
Roads have been damaged and blocked off. Photo by Delphine Mayeur/AFP.

“Defence is on alert, ready to take action to support Australians. At the moment, the airport is closed. So, the planes can’t get in. But air force have been on standby for the last 48 hours and they remain ready to provide that assistance to evacuate Australians who wish to leave,” he said.

The French government said more than 1800 security officers were already in the territory and that 500 reinforcements had been sent from France.

Ten people accused of organising the violence have been placed under house arrest, according to authorities.