One dead after accident at 'yellow vest' roadblock in France

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Dec 02, 2018, 05:51 PM IST

Protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher diesel taxes, demonstrate in Paris, France. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Macron and key ministers will meet later in the day to consider declaring an emergency to prevent a recurrence of the riots.

A motorist died overnight after colliding with traffic which had built up due to a "yellow vest" anti-government protest in southern France, a local prosecutor said Sunday.

The accident happened in Arles after "a van collided into a heavy truck at full force before being hit by another vehicle," Tarascon prosecutor Patrick Desjardins told AFP, adding that the accident was "directly related" to a roadblock by protesters which caused a 10km traffic jam.

Masked, black-clad groups ran amok across central Paris , torching dozens of cars and buildings, looting shops, smashing windows and fighting police in the worst unrest the capital has seen since 1968, posing the most formidable challenge President Emmanuel Macron has faced in his 18-month-old presidency.

Macron rushed to the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday after one of France's most revered monuments was vandalised by rioters.

Under heavy security, the French leader spoke with police and firefighters on one of the avenues near the Champs Elysees boulevard, with some bystanders cheering but more jeering him, including yellow-jacketed protesters chanting, "Macron, resign!"

Later in the day, Macron and key ministers will meet to consider declaring an emergency to prevent a recurrence of the riots.

The government is open to dialogue but will not change course, spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said.

A popular revolt over fuel tax hikes and high living costs erupted suddenly on November 17 and has spread quickly via social media. Protesters have blocked roads across France and impeded access to shopping malls, factories and some fuel depots.

The protests began as a backlash against Macron's fuel tax hikes, but have mined a vein of deep dissatisfaction felt towards his liberal economic reforms, which many voters feel favour the wealthy and big business.

Macron says higher diesel taxes are needed to fight climate change by spurring motorists to drive cleaner cars.

Authorities were caught off guard by Saturday's escalation in violence overshadowing the spontaneous protest movement, dubbed the "yellow vests" because many participants are wearing the fluorescent safety jackets kept in all cars in France.