At least 30 vehicles were destroyed amid the arson on Thursday night, according to police sources cited by French daily Le Figaro.
“We are already at a certain number of burnt vehicles,” said the office of Josiane Chevalier, the prefect of the Bas-Rhin region, which contains Strasbourg, adding that several arrests were made throughout the night.
Smoldering cars, as well as those fully engulfed in flames, were seen in videos posted to social media, in some cases setting off loud blasts as the vehicles’ fuel ignited.
Warning that there would be no “concession” to vandals earlier on Thursday, Chevalier said the city “cannot afford to have the same record as last year” and that authorities had done everything in their power to curtail the car-burnings.
In 2019, some 220 cars in the city were incinerated in a relentless string of vandalism on New Year’s night.
In addition to a nationwide 8pm curfew and a number of street closures in Strasbourg, fireworks have been banned for the entire month of December, while local police set up “mobile forces” in “strategic locations” across the city, according to Annie Bregal, Bas-Rhin’s director of public security. A total of 100,000 officers and gendarmes were stationed throughout France to enforce the restrictions. Sales of fuel at the retail level have also been temporarily banned.
The measures did little to stop the rampage on Thursday night, however, with throngs of vandals hitting the streets despite the curfew and sizable law enforcement presence, which included a police helicopter, filmed shining a spotlight on the city below. The ban on fireworks also appears to have been largely ignored, as firecrackers and mortars were heard throughout the night.
Strasbourg is not the only city to partake in the annual New Year’s arson-fest, with a record 1,457 cars burned last year in France as a whole, according to media reports. The year prior saw 1,290 vehicles torched. The destruction has become something of a yearly rite in French suburbs since 2005, when riots gripped Paris and other towns for three weeks, sending countless buildings and cars up in smoke and resulting in at least three deaths.
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