French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said Wednesday that the government has decided to deploy the military to New Caledonia to ensure the safety of ports and airports as riots continue in its Pacific territory, French media reported.

Paris declared an emergency for New Caledonia at 5 a.m. Thursday local time. Attal also said the government has banned the use of the short-video app TikTok in an apparent bid to prevent calls for further demonstrations or other acts from spreading in the territory east of Australia, according to the reports.

A total of four people have been killed and hundreds more injured in conflicts that have rocked the island since earlier this week, local media reported, as protests over changes to voter eligibility in the territory turned violent.

The riots broke out in the capital Noumea on Monday night as lawmakers in Paris debated constitutional changes that would expand the electorate in New Caledonia's provincial elections to French residents who have lived in the archipelago for 10 years.

Posters seen Dec. 12, 2021, in Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific, call on people to vote against independence from France in a third and final referendum. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Separatists fear the move would strengthen the position of pro-France politicians by diluting the vote of the indigenous Kanak Melanesian population.

The unrest has so far resulted in numerous fires and widespread looting of businesses and public property, including schools, the High Commission of the Republic of New Caledonia said in a statement Wednesday.

Nearly 200 rioters have been arrested, and 64 gendarmes and police officers have been injured in the clashes, according to a separate statement Thursday by France's representative in the territory.

A curfew between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. imposed on Tuesday night has been extended and a ban on all gatherings in the capital imposed, as well as a territory-wide embargo on alcohol sales and the carrying and transport of weapons.

The international airport in Noumea has been closed and all commercial flights are canceled until further notice, its operator said Wednesday.

According to French media, the constitutional reforms were adopted by the National Assembly in Paris shortly after midnight Tuesday by 351 votes to 153, following lengthy debate. However, it still has to pass a second round of voting before becoming law, according to reports.

New Caledonia, with a population of some 270,000, has gained considerable autonomy from France under the 1998 Noumea Accord, which vowed to gradually give more political power to the territory.

Under the agreement, New Caledonia has held three referendums on its ties with France, with independence being rejected each time. However, pro-independence parties did not accept the result of the third referendum in 2021 after boycotting the vote over France's refusal to postpone the referendum amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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