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TODAY   |  August 09, 2011

Violent riots spread across London

In the worst violence the city has seen in 30 years, riots swept through London for a third night. NBC’s Michelle Kosinski reports.

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ANN CURRY, co-host: To London now where riots have swept through the city for a third night. It's the worst violence the city has seen in 30 years, and this morning it is spreading. NBC 's Michelle Kosinski is in London this morning. Michelle , good morning.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI reporting: Hi, Ann. You just look at this happening and think, 'Is this London ?' And overnight the violence escalated, spread to other cities, including Birmingham and Liverpool . The prime minister just cut his -- short his vacation in Tuscany to fly back for an emergency meeting. Just announced he's putting 16,000 police on the streets tonight, while police have started urging the parents of these young rioters to call their kids, keep them home, and make them stop. For a third terrible night, London burns. This a century-old furniture store in the south, while other scuffles broke out around the capital and beyond. Destruction, attacks on police , cars and buildings torched. The looting everywhere. Sneakers, TVs , liquor, you name it, all seemingly proudly hauled away in daylight. Others posted their loot online.

Ms. THERESA MAY (Secretary For Home Affairs): The violence we've seen, the looting we've seen, the thuggery we've seen, this is sheer criminality.

Mr. NICK CLEGG (Deputy Prime Minister): Needless opportunistic, theft and violence. Nothing more, nothing less.

KOSINSKI: Walk out in it and it does have the feel of crime for crime's sake by young men and women voracious for violence, raging since Saturday, sparked by anger over the police killing of a young father last week, which is under investigation. Some rioters claim it's still about that.

Unidentified Man #1: The police have too much power and they're using that power.

KOSINSKI: The relatively small groups of rioters are believe to be organizing over social media, attacking more than a dozen neighborhoods now all over the city, causing a staggering degree of damage. But who's getting hurt? Their own stunned, disgusted neighbors who've lost businesses and homes.

Unidentified Man #2: We left basically just with the clothes on our back.

Unidentified Woman: I don't know why people do this.

KOSINSKI: Here, as one building went up in flames, neighbors escaped from windows on rooftops. At another scene, while police chase troublemakers at the bottom left of the screen, those at the top right are busy attacking their vehicles. Police admit they've had trouble controlling this, pulling in now hundreds of reinforcements from outside London . Firefighters haven't been able to safely do their jobs. The description increasingly used for this capital city , a war zone. The explosive violence only spreading. The question on so many minds right now, why really is this happening? And since it started, police have arrested more than 400 people; dozens of officers and citizens have been hurt. The youngest arrest so far, an 11-year-old for burglary, Ann.

CURRY: Hm . Michelle Kosinski , thank you so much for your reporting on this story. Really sobering.