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British Prime Minister David Cameron has been in emergency meetings with his Cabinet Tuesday, after rioters burned buildings and smashed storefronts across London and beyond in recent days.
The riots began over the weekend in Tottenham, north London, but quickly spread to other parts of the city, as well as beyond the capital. The unrest was initially triggered by the killing by police of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old man. But the rioters, predominantly young people, also appear to be responding to recent cuts to social services, and to the unusual heat of this year's summer in Britain. There are now around 16,000 police officers dispatched to the streets of London to attempt to halt the riots, the Guardian reports.
In what has emerged as the iconic image of the mayhem so far, a woman jumped to safety from a burning building in Croydon, south London. Amy Weston, the photographer who took the shots for London's Wenn picture agency, described the scene to The Guardian. (You can watch a video report on the incident in the clip above.)
"A man in a white shirt was screaming that a girl was at the window and that she was ready to jump," said Weston. "He ran towards her, but riot police had appeared and pulled him back, and they went to her instead."
"As soon as she dropped, the crowds pushed back and there was no way to see what happened to her," she continued. "I remember hearing people screaming that there were more people in the building. The crowds started getting angry with each, with one group blaming another group for starting the fire."
In Enfield, north London, rioters set fire to a Sony warehouse, destroying its stock of CDs and vinyl records.
The riots offer a major test for London's Metropolitan Police, rocked by recent allegations that some cops worked with the media company News International to hack into personal cellphone voice mailboxes. And they come just a year before London aims to put its best foot forward when it hosts the 2012 Olympic Games--which will bring an enormous influx of tourists from around the globe and elaborate security challenges.