Four Northlanders are taking refuge in their hotel in Santiago, Chile after being caught up in deadly riots over public transport.

Northland's D'Artagnan Gould, 15, and Kingiteahuahu Tana, 14, Craig Nordstrand and Kingiteahuahu's father Damian, all landed in Santiago on Friday [Saturday NZT] ahead of the World Junior Karate Championships which were set to start on Wednesday.

A protester returns a tear gas canister to police during clashes in Santiago, Chile. Photo / AP
A protester returns a tear gas canister to police during clashes in Santiago, Chile. Photo / AP

The two teenagers are members of the Miyagi Kan karate club in Whangārei, coached by Nordstrand.

Three people had been killed by a fire inside a supermarket in Santiago during a second night of protests in Chile, the BBC reported. Chile president Sebastián Piñera declared a state of emergency after many protesters - many of them high school and university students - jumped turnstiles, attacked several underground stations, started fires and blocked traffic, leaving widespread damage across the city and thousands of commuters without transport.

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The three Northlanders (from left) Craig Nordstrand, Kingiteahuahu Tana and D'Artagnan Gould are at the centre of deadly riots in Chile ahead of their karate competition on Wednesday. Photo / File
The three Northlanders (from left) Craig Nordstrand, Kingiteahuahu Tana and D'Artagnan Gould are at the centre of deadly riots in Chile ahead of their karate competition on Wednesday. Photo / File

The group of Northlanders first travelled from the airport on Friday [Saturday NZT] to the Pariwana hostel where Nordstrand and Kingiteahuahu's father were set to stay, but were told the hostel was directly in the riot red zone.

Read more: Nordstrand - "Situation is worse than ever"

The heavy police presence was a stark change of scenery for the four Northlanders in Santiago. Photo / Supplied
The heavy police presence was a stark change of scenery for the four Northlanders in Santiago. Photo / Supplied

On the way to the Pullman Santiago El Bosque hotel, where Gould and Tana would be staying, Nordstrand said they initially had no idea what was going on.

"It looked nice and then I noticed large rocks as big as softballs all over the road... and cars that had been turned over and burnt out," he said.

"We wondered what had happened, [we thought] maybe a bomb had gone off or something. If you're amongst it, it looks like a war zone."

A burnt-out bus bears the scars of Chile's unrest. Photo / Supplied
A burnt-out bus bears the scars of Chile's unrest. Photo / Supplied

On Saturday [Sunday NZT], the group then went to pick up their venue entry passes at a nearby mall where about a 1000 protesters clashed with police. Nordstrand said while he wasn't fearful at the scene, it was certainly an unnerving sight.

"We didn't feel scared or anything but the presence of the army made it quite testy and [the protesters] were throwing smoke bombs at [the police].

"The protesters had pipes and they were banging them and chanting, it was quite noisy."

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A demonstrator holds up his hands toward advancing soldiers during a protest as a state of emergency remains in effect in Santiago, Chile. Photo / AP
A demonstrator holds up his hands toward advancing soldiers during a protest as a state of emergency remains in effect in Santiago, Chile. Photo / AP

Then at 11:30am yesterday local time [3:30am yesterday NZT], Nordstrand said the group had been caught up in a nearby riot sitting across the road from a Wendy's fast food restaurant.

"I was sitting in the sun thinking, 'what a lovely city this is' and looking at Wendy's across the road thinking, 'I might have lunch there' and a few minutes later, a siren went off and then big plumes of smoke, dark smoke, came out of the roof of Wendy's, someone had set it on fire," he said.

"I was looking at it a minute ago and now it was just absolutely covered in smoke, it was so quick."

A tyre burns as protests in Chile's capital city rage on. Photo / Supplied
A tyre burns as protests in Chile's capital city rage on. Photo / Supplied

As of Sunday evening [yesterday afternoon NZT], the group was holed up in their hotel as a curfew had been put in place overnight to keep people indoors.

Nordstrand said it was fortunate their hotel, which also housed karate teams from Austria, Japan and Thailand, was situated next to a Chinese food restuarant which meant food was accessible unlike other parts of the city.

A worker cleans up a supermarket looted during protests. Photo / AP
A worker cleans up a supermarket looted during protests. Photo / AP

The global karate competition, which would feature about 1000 competitors from about 120 countries, was in danger of being cancelled due the riots. However, with an announcement that local schools would be reopened on the competition's first day on Wednesday, Nordstrand was optimistic his students would get a chance to compete.