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A passenger describes what the evacuation of New Caledonia is like

Another 50 New Zealanders who were on holiday in New Caledonia when the riots began are returning home.

A third evacuation flight from Noumea took off at around 11.45am and is expected to arrive in Auckland by mid-afternoon.

André Capiez was one of the passengers invited aboard the Hercules plane at Magenta airport.

“I received a phone call yesterday afternoon, telling me I would be on the flight and that I had to arrive at a meeting point this morning… at 7am outside one of the resort hotels,” he said.

“A friend drove me there and then we had to check in, fill out a medical form, put our luggage aside and then we had a briefing about the plane.”

A third evacuation flight landed in Auckland this afternoon.

Capiez had been staying in southern Nouméa, which he said was quite far from the unrest in the northern suburbs.

“Most (other passengers) feel good because the tourist areas have been pretty safe,” he said.

But, on their way from the meeting point to Magenta airport, the group “took the long way around the bays to stay in those southern suburbs.”

He said the airport was heavily guarded.

“We are at the national airport in the local flying club area, not on the commercial side of the airport. There are French armed forces around, so it is very safe.”

Overall, Capiez said the evacuation process had been very smooth.

“It’s been really good because the consular staff, the NZDF people and the MFAT people have been amazing,” he said.

“They explained to us what to expect, that we should arrive in Auckland by mid-afternoon. Staff were seeing if they could rebook (flights) for people who needed to fly to other places in New Zealand.”

Defense Forces personnel distributed earplugs and warned passengers that the flight would be noisy, but many were happy to return home, Capiez said.

“There are a lot of people here with small children and babies, so it will be a big relief for people to get home.”

rnz.co.nz

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