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Now to the story...

Rioters burn Palm Is police station

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 26 November 2004

A riot has broken out in the Indigenous community on North Queensland's Palm Island, after the release of an autopsy conducted on a man who died in police custody.

Authorities are trying to restore law and order on the island, and armed police are being sent from Townsville.

Up to 300 islanders have stormed the police station, setting fire to it with a petrol bomb. They also destroyed the police residence.

Fire officials trying to control the blaze have reportedly been threatened by locals, some of whom were carrying knives and other weapons. A fire truck has also been destroyed.

The anger stems from the release of autopsy results on Cameron Doomagee, who died in the watchhouse last Friday.

The autopsy shows that he had broken ribs and died from a punctured lung.

Island resident Nicky Bull says there is no sign of an end to the riot and many islanders are scared.

"Everybody's down at the main oval outside of the police station," she said.

"There's smoke everywhere, the police station's just about burnt to the ground as it is as well as the residence where the police live.

"The atmosphere is just anger amongst the residents here but it's very very freaky here at the moment because of a lot of those people are not used to seeing our people like this."

Calm urged

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has called for calm.

"We're really appealing for some common sense here, for Indigenous leaders to provide leadership and to allow the independent inquiry to do its work," he said.

"We need to work this through in a constructive and sensible way."

The Palm Island Hospital is under lock down on police orders.

A Queensland Health spokesman says the department is working with police to ensure the safety of staff and patients.

Police have set up a major incident room in Townsville, and Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson is on his way.

Up to 50 armed police have boarded three planes at Townsville airport, although it is understood that locals on Palm Island have blocked the airstrip with cars.

The police will join 14 extra officers, who were deployed on Monday after about 200 people stormed the police station.

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