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London assays riots cost, promises safe 2012 Olympics

(Xinhua)

16:33, August 12, 2011

LONDON, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- London vowed to take tough measures to punish rioters and maintain peace while starting to assess losses Thursday after the worst rioting and looting in decades hit English cities.

Only a year before London hosts the 2012 Olympics, Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain needed to reassure the world that what had happened was "not in any way representative of our country - nor of our young people."

VERIFYING LOSSES

England experienced its first quiet night Wednesday after four consecutive nights of rioting, first in London and then in cities in the northwest, the midlands and the west.

The presence of 16,000 police officers on the streets of London deterred would-be rioters from repeating the scenes of Saturday to Monday night, which culminated in a crescendo of violence that saw shops burnt and looted, people attacked, and buses hijacked and destroyed across many parts of the capital.

The Association of British Insurers estimated total damage at more than 200 million pounds (324 million U.S. dollars), doubling its previous claims estimate.

Cameron promised to compensate people whose property was damaged by rioters, even if they were uninsured.

All those made homeless would be rehoused, and businesses could claim compensation from government, with the deadline to make claims extended from 14 days to 42 days.

Cameron also announced tax breaks for businesses affected, and tax deferments to help them cope.

Media said the government was setting up a 20-million-pound (32.4-million-dollar) support scheme to help businesses get back up and running quickly.

It is also setting up a 10-million-pound (16.2-million-dollar) "Recovery Scheme" to provide additional support to councils to make areas safe and clean again.

The government gave no estimate for the total cost of its measures but newspapers estimate taxpayers may face a 100-million-pound (162-million-dollar) bill for the riots.

TOUGH ANTI-RIOT MEASURES

Cameron on Thursday laid out a tough line of more robust policing and justice from the courts to punish rioters.

He also admitted the army could be called in to quell the violence, and reiterated that police had been given powers to use water cannon and plastic bullets.

The government was also looking at using curfews in riot areas to keep people off the streets.

As rioters had used social media, like Twitter, Facebook and the Blackberry messenger system, to organize and control riots, Cameron said he was looking at how this could be controlled during social disturbances in the future.

Courts stayed open overnight to deal with a backlog of more than 1,200 people arrested during the riots. And police started raiding addresses in London on Thursday to arrest those suspected of involvement in the violence.

Among those arrested were the daughter of a millionaire, a teaching assistant, a charity worker and an 11-year-old boy.

Several people received jail sentences Thursday while others were bailed.

Cameron said he did not want to see arrested rioters released on bail, and he was prepared to introduce legislation to allow courts to keep them all in jail until their cases were heard.

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