Clean-up begins in riot hit cities

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The riots which have broken out across London and other cities in the UK have caused "tens of millions of pounds" of damage, experts said today.

A massive clean-up operation is getting under way in affected areas, but the Association of British Insurers said the total cost could run into the tens of millions.

Councils and residents in areas where some of the worst disorder occurred yesterday and overnight have already started sending teams out to begin what is likely to be a lengthy clean-up operation.

A spokeswoman for Hackney Council in north London said it had sent teams out "as soon as it was safe".

Users of Twitter and Facebook are using the social networking sites, which police said were also utilised by the rioters to organise their looting and civil disobedience, to arrange mass street clean-up operations across London and in other cities affected, including Bristol.

An account on Twitter called riotcleanup attracted more than 18,000 followers in a matter of hours today and was helping people to co-ordinate their efforts. Others were using the hashtag £riotscleanup to arrange to meet up and help clear areas around their homes.

Some members of the community arrived in Peckham High Street armed with cleaning equipment to help restore order in the aftermath of the riots.

About 20 people with dustpans and brushes offered small businesses help cleaning up their destroyed stores.

One woman aged in her 20s said: "I was devastated when I saw what happened last night.

"I was really angry so I thought I'd channel my anger in a constructive way.

"We have never met each other before, we just spoke on Twitter this morning. Twitter can be used for good."

In Enfield, north London, council street cleaners cleared away debris to allow the area's one-way system to reopen.

Councillor Chris Bond said they were determined to "not surrender the streets to criminals".

"Our street workers have done a marvellous job in clearing away debris last night to ensue Enfield town is open for business," he said.

"This shows we will not let these criminals beat us. We will not surrender our streets to these mindless morons."

Those using Twitter to co-ordinate clean-up efforts are calling themselves the "Riot Wombles" and are now using the hashtag £riotwombles to arrange meeting times and places.

One, with the username Ladypaperclip, wrote: "Sitting in the bus lane outside the station with dozens of £riotwombles waiting for the police to let us into £claphamjunction."

People waiting to clean up Clapham Junction have been told they cannot help because of health and safety issues.

The clean-up operation had been expected to begin at 1pm after police dealt with the crime scene.

But officers told the volunteers that the decision had been made for the clean-up to be done by the council.

Asked why, an officer said: "Health and safety mainly. There's lots of broken glass around."

Dozens of people armed with brooms are waiting in the road outside the station surveying the cordoned-off section of the main road. The local Sainsbury's has donated coffee and Costa has provided paper cups for the helpers. Earlier, two police cars drove past the police tape and everyone clapped and cheered.

Now they plan to help out in the side streets that have not been cordoned off by police.

James Walker, who is helping coordinate the clean-up, told the crowd: "Even if we can't to do the glory jobs we can still contribute to our community."

A spokeswoman for Camden Borough Council said the clean-up operation was already well under way there.

Jules Pipe, the mayor of Hackney and chairman of the local government organisation London Councils, said: "London's boroughs have been leading on the clear-up of the damage caused to their communities.

"Clean-up teams were on stand-by from the early hours of the morning waiting for the go-ahead from the police and their efforts to make streets safe and clean for residents and businesses will have helped the capital pick itself up from last night's disorder.

"Councils have also been providing assistance to families and businesses who have been forced out of their homes and premises. Obviously some council services have faced disruption, but across the capital boroughs are working to ensure any affected services are relocated and are open to residents.

"Going forward, councils will be working closely with residents and other partners to repair both the superficial and the deeper-rooted damage done to our communities."