Schools, cars burn in New Caledonia ahead of Macron visit

Arsonists torched schools and hundreds of cars overnight in New Caledonia, officials said Wednesday, as President Emmanuel Macron embarked on a surprise visit aiming to end nine days of deadly riots on the French Pacific archipelago.

Macron left Paris on Tuesday on a flight to the troubled territory, a popular holiday destination where roads are now littered with charred vehicles, and scores of shops, schools and other buildings are in cinders.

Clashes have left six people dead and hundreds injured since unrest erupted May 13 on the Pacific islands, home to 270,000 people.

French authorities said the violence had eased since 1,050 troops, tactical police and national security reinforcements from Paris were deployed, including to "highly sensitive" areas.

Nevertheless, two primary schools and 300 cars in a dealership were torched in the territory's capital Noumea during the night, the mayor's office told AFP.

The deadliest unrest in four decades has been blamed on French plans to give voting rights to thousands of non-indigenous residents, which Indigenous Kanaks say will dilute their votes.

Police have arrested more than 280 "rioters" since the troubles began, the French authorities said.

  Trapped tourists flee 

Tourists trapped in the territory have begun to flee.

Australia and New Zealand sent an initial batch of military planes to Noumea's small domestic Magenta airport on Tuesday, repatriating "about 100 people", according to French authorities on the island.

"When we landed, it was just like 'Oh, thank God we're here!'" said Mary Hatten, who had spent a week holed up in a Noumea hotel, after touching down in Brisbane.

Further flights will be organised until the main...

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