The Telegraph
Monday , August 15 , 2011
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Days and nights in riot zone

Soumya Mukherjee, a 27-year-old Calcutta-based software professional who was in London on an office assignment, recounts to Metro how the tranquil neighbourhood where he was staying changed colour overnight.

A youth running with a brick in hand and yelling suddenly turned towards our building and hurled the brick towards it. The brick hit the glass wall of the ground-floor lobby where I and most of the other residents of Raphael House, a 20-storeyed apartment building at Ilford, Sussex, had gathered on Monday evening (August 8) to gauge how bad the situation was outside.

There were panicked shrieks and some of the residents immediately scrambled towards the elevators. Luckily, the glass wall did not break.

Outside, it was mayhem. Groups of teenagers, armed with sticks, rods and bricks were smashing glass panes and hurling bricks at the policemen, who were chasing them.

It was the fourth day of the London riots and the first time we felt the heat.

On August 5, on the way to my office at Canary Wharf (a business district in London), I did not feel anything was abnormal.

But on Monday afternoon, after hurrying out of the office following a phone call from Samim, one of my three roommates at Raphael House, I could feel the tension in the air.

Groups of teenagers had gathered in small groups near our house. I sensed trouble. After returning from office, I used to go out for dinner. That evening, I decided not to venture far from the building and instead planned to buy my dinner from an adjacent store.

After the attack on our house, I had no option but to stay indoor. I was worried about Samim but he reached home safely. Outside, the youths continued their rampage for a couple of hours despite the police forming cordons on both sides of the street.

I saw policemen chasing 25 to 30 men who were armed with sticks and bricks. We could see smoke rising from buildings in nearby localities and feared another attack on our building. I got calls from my mother and wife and assured them that I was safe.

The next day, we did not step out of our home. On August 10, I set out for Heathrow airport to catch the flight back home. On the way to the airport, I could see smoke rising from buildings.

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