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200 French Legionnaires Surround Tahiti Port

October 26, 1987|Associated Press

PAPEETE, Tahiti — About 200 members of the French Foreign Legion arrived in Tahiti on Sunday and surrounded this port, two days after clashes between police and striking dockworkers left more than a dozen people injured and about 15 buildings looted and burned.

High Commissioner Pierre Angeli declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew Saturday in the wake of violence the previous day on this island renowned for its tranquility.

On Sunday, Bernard Pons, minister for French overseas territories, ordered two squadrons of gendarmes from France and one squadron from New Caledonia into Tahiti to back up the legionnaires.

"It's a totally temporary situation, which could last a maximum of two or three days," Pons said in Paris.

The state of emergency covers all of Tahiti and the nearby island of Moorea, while the dusk-to-dawn curfew is restricted to five Tahitian communities, including Papeete.

Angeli said all bars and restaurants are to remain closed until the emergency is lifted.

Over a Dozen Hurt

Police said more than a dozen people were injured in the rampage, two seriously. Burned-out cars and burned-down buildings left some streets of Papeete looking devastated Sunday.

Pons said Saturday that calm had been restored after the rioting, which broke out after police tried to clear the port of Papeete, closed since Thursday by the dockworkers' strike.

A confrontation between dockers and police degenerated into rioting as the strikers were pushed out of the port area.

Pons said it appears that "outside elements" were responsible for the looting, which, he said, left about 15 buildings burned.

Dockworkers have considerable power in this Pacific island, whose population of 116,000 is almost totally dependent on imports.

The striking dockers were demanding an extra team to supplement workers on the Pacific island of Mururoa, France's nuclear testing site.

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