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France sees 650 cars torched on New Year's Eve

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France sees 650 cars torched on New Year's Eve
Torched cars from New Year's Eve in Strasbourg. File photo: AFP
12:18 CET+01:00
The Interior Ministry has revealed just how busy France's emergency services were on New Year's Eve.

New Year's Eve "went off without any major incident" but "saw some troubles with public order", the Interior Ministry has said in a statement.

Police arrested 454 people over the night, 301 of whom were taken into custody. 

Meanwhile, in something of a tradition for the French, vandals torched a whopping 650 parked cars.

While the figure is worse than the 602 the year before, the ministry was quick to point out that there has been a 20 percent drop over the last five years. 

Meanwhile, Le Monde newspaper accused the ministry of deflating the figures, reporting that 945 cars were actually on fire during the night - an increase on the 804 that it reported were torched the year before. 

The paper said that the government was only reporting on the cars that were "directly" torched, ignoring those that caught fire nearby from leaping flames. 

A ministry spokesperson responded that the figures released were the "most pertinent and the most coherent". 

Elsewhere in France, a fire fighter in the eastern department of Ain was also hurt while trying to extinguish a car. 

In Nice, where security was at a high following the terror attack on Bastille Day last year, two police officers were hurt when revellers threw objects at them. 

Interior Minister Bruno le Roux said no attack on security would not be tolerated. 

"I regret that once again there were too many instances of security forces being hit with projectiles, or met with aggression or insults," he said.

He thanked the tens of thousands of police and firefighters, however, adding that they "allowed December 31st to pass by particularly well". 

Why do people burn cars in France on New Year's Eve?

The custom of setting vehicles alight on New Year’s Eve reportedly began in the east of the country, around Strasbourg, in the 1990s, in the the city’s poorer neighbourhoods.

It was then quickly adopted by youths in cities across the country.

Cars are often set ablaze whenever there is an outbreak of social disorder, as seen in the 2005 riots when hundreds of vehicles were torched.

Authorities have previously refrained from reporting on the number of torched cars on New Year's Eve after it was discovered that a district-by-district breakdown was fuelling destructive competition between rival gangs.

 
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