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Masks and fires: why riots break out in New Caledonia

Masks and fires: why riots break out in New Caledonia

Anger over France's planned changes to voting rights in regional elections has led to the worst protests in New Caledonia in four decades.

Buildings and cars were burned, stores were looted, and the shooting has so far left six people dead and hundreds injured. The chaos caused long lines outside banks and grocery stores, with shelves empty.

The archipelago's airport has also been closed to commercial flights. Australian tourist Nicholas Agustin says he and his girlfriend don't know how to get home.

We saw men in the streets with masks and big sticks. He says: There was smoke above the city.

Indigenous separatists set up roadblocks using burning car tires.

“We are risking our lives just to go out quickly during the day and buy food,” says Sophie Parkinson, who traveled to New Caledonia for work and is now stuck.

On Friday, reinforcements of about a thousand French soldiers and policemen, equipped with riot control equipment, arrived in the group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Fiji. Hundreds of “rioters” have already been arrested, according to French authorities, and a curfew has been imposed.

Why are residents protesting? Watch more in the video.

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