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Cars torched, shots fired as riot rocks French Pacific territory of New Caledonia

Riots erupted on Monday over a constitutional reform that is being debated in the national assembly in Paris, and which aims to expand the electorate in the territory’s provincial elections.

Groups of demonstrators took over several roundabouts and confronted police, who responded with non-lethal rounds, while the territory’s high commissioner said shots had been fired at security forces during the riots.

On Tuesday, the streets of Noumea bore the scars of clashes between the police and rioters with traffic blocked by burnt-out cars and smoking piles of tyres.

“The police station nearby was on fire and a car was too, in front of my house, there was non-stop shouting and explosions, I felt like I was in a war,” said Sylvie, whose family has lived in New Caledonia for several generations.

“We are alone. Who is going to protect us?” she said, asking to be identified only by her first name.

A total of 36 people were arrested and 30 police officers were injured, according to authorities, who also announced a nighttime curfew on Tuesday and a ban on public gatherings. No deaths have been reported.

“I can’t talk,” said Joelle Vincent, who owns a supermarket business. “I am disappointed and disgusted.”

The fire brigade recorded nearly 1,500 calls and counted around 200 fires in the overnight unrest.

At least two car dealerships and a bottling factory in the capital Noumea were set on fire in arson attacks, journalists saw.

While the situation appeared more calm in parts of Noumea on Tuesday, there were still clashes in the suburbs, where a supermarket was looted after being ram-raided during the night.

Many other businesses also bore the marks of attempted break-ins and few shops were open. Long queues were forming in front of the few