London smoulders after third night of mayhem

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Smouldering parts of London resembled a war zone on Tuesday after a third night of violence with shops looted, century-old businesses burned to the ground and streets littered with barricades.

Hooded and masked youths ransacked shops and burned cars and buildings in districts ranging from the leafy western suburb of Ealing to the gritty inner-city districts of Peckham and Hackney.

In Ealing -- known for the famed Ealing Studios where classic post-war comedies were filmed in the 1950s depicting a now bygone world -- car windows were smashed and the vehicles driven or dragged into the street and torched just yards from the studios.

The grey carcasses of the burned-out vehicles lay in bright sunshine on Tuesday morning, surrounded by gawping residents taking photographs on their mobile phones.

There was worse in the pretty Ealing Green shopping area, where hundreds of rioters had smashed shop windows and torched buildings.

Amrit Khurmy, who owns a convenience store which was looted and burned out, said she had watched helplessly as youths ran amok.

"I came down at 11:15 pm last night, there were hundreds of kids smashing shops. They were coming out of our shop carrying bottles screaming and yelling," Khurmy said.

"I think they took everything but we don't know because we can't go in there, it's totally burned. It's shocking, I am very sad, I just can't believe it, it's a lovely little community here."

Paul Walters, 32, another local resident, said: "It was like a war zone. It was absolute anarchy, it was indiscriminate."

A row of shops had their windows smashed in, at least six cars were burnt-out shells and there was a pile of what looked like burnt rubbish in the middle of the street.

Police tape is up and a fire engine and police cars are in the area.

Gavin Stephen, 34, a local resident, said: "I watched them burn these two cars and watched them smash the whole parade of shops and windows to pieces.

"They just jumped in and helped themselves.

"One youngster said to me last night: 'The government is taking everything, the schooling money and everything, and now it's time for us to take back what we want.'

"It's ridiculous, if I was the cops I would have gone and beaten the life out of them. They weren't stopping them from doing it."

At Clapham Junction in south London, several Victorian terrace buildings had been turned into gutted shells, while debris left by looters who targeted a huge Debenhams department store was littered across the street.

But in a sign of Londoners trying to strike back against the rioters, around 100 people carrying brooms and bin bags gathered at the police cordon outside Clapham Junction station for in response to a clean-up appeal on Twitter.

James Hossack, a 38-year-old consultant, said he had taken the day off work to help with the clean-up in Clapham Junction, again a relatively affluent area of the capital.

"We all live in this community and we wanted to show the world that we respect it," he said.

He rejected arguments that deeper social ills in Britain had helped sparked the riots, saying the violence was "sheer opportunism".

Joanne Austin-Olsen, 38, who works in advertising and also lives in Clapham, agreed.

"You feel really impotent seeing this rioting happen where you live, and we wanted to show that we're not," she said.

An organiser with a megaphone told the clean-up volunteers to to come back two hours later, however, as police were treating all the debris-strewn areas as a crime scene.

In Mare Street in Hackney, the main thoroughfare of the district in east London which bore the brunt of much of the violence, it was relatively quiet after the violence that broke out there on Monday afternoon.

A young kid in a baseball cap peered through gaps in the shutters of a sports shop, while a Ladbroke's betting shop was boarded up after being looted.

Glaziers were working to repair a food store.

© 2011 AFP

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