NOUMEA, New Caledonia: Two people were killed and hundreds injured, shops were looted and public buildings torched during a second night of rioting in New Caledonia, authorities said on Wednesday (May 15), as anger over constitutional reforms from Paris boiled over.

What began as pro-independence demonstrations have spiralled into three days of the worst violence seen on the French Pacific archipelago since the 1980s.

Despite heavily armed security forces fanning out across the capital Noumea and the ordering of a nighttime curfew, rioting continued overnight virtually unabated.

Hundreds of people including “around 100” police and gendarmes have been injured in the unrest, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in Paris.

One person had been shot dead overnight but authorities were yet to establish the circumstances that led to the incident, Darmanin said, adding that dozens of homes and businesses had been torched.

The office of the High Commissioner, France’s top representative in New Caledonia, later on Wednesday reported a second death in the riots, without giving any details of the circumstances.

President Emmanual Macron cancelled a planned domestic trip and moved Wednesday’s regular cabinet meeting to hold a crisis meeting with key ministers in New Caledonia, his office said.

In Noumea and the commune of Paita, there were reports of several exchanges of fire between civil defence groups and rioters.

Streets in the capital were pocked by the shells of burned-out cars and buildings, including a sports store and a large concrete climbing wall.

“Numerous arsons and pillaging of shops, infrastructure and public buildings – including primary and secondary schools – were carried out,” said the High Commission.


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