London Riots
Police officers in riot gear block a road near a burning car on a street in Hackney, east London Reuters

In London, rioters attacked and pummeled a middle-aged man who was trying to extinguish a trashcan fire in his neighborhood.

The event occurred around 11 p.m. in Ealing. The man was let go when police arrived on the scene to disperse looters.

"The rioters had set a bin alight and then they jumped on him when he tried to put it out," one witness told The Guardian.

"They ran away when the police arrived, and they put him in the recovery position. There were three police there and I was told to leave. I'd had to go all the way around the rioters to get there so I'd put a hoodie on and put the hood up and I could see them mayheming."

Earlier, a 26-year-old man shot in a car in Croydon, south of London, during this week's riots has died, becoming the first fatality of the chaos sweeping Britain, the BBC reported on Tuesday.

In Tottenham, where the riots originated over the weekend, police reported a number of loud explosions at a recycling center. Residents of the north London neighborhood have been advised to stay away from windows should another blast shatter glass.

Violence has erupted in a number of places, and the list of English cities under attack growing by the hour. Reports of looting and disorder in Birmingham and Liverpool began Monday, and now local police are responding to incidents in Manchester, Birkenhead, West Bromwich, Salford and Wolverhampton.

In Nottingham, a city north of London, the Canning Circus Police Station was firebombed by a group of 30 to 40 men.

Some London citizens are taking matters into their own hands. Appearing in advance of both police and protestors, groups of men in areas such as Eltham in the southeast part of the capital have gathered on the streets to protect their homes and families from gangs of looters.

Nearly 700 people have been arrested in London alone, and about 110 of them have been charged.

"These are pure and simple criminals running wild tonight," said Garry Shewan, Assistant Chief Constable at Greater Manchester Police.

"They have nothing to protest against there has been no spark. This has been senseless on a scale I have never witnessed before in my career."

Police are pouring over CCTV footage to try to identify looters, and they assure the English populace that arrests will be made as early as tomorrow morning.

A total of 16,000 police officers are currently in the capital.

The riots were spurred when police shot and killed Mark Duggan, a suspected drug dealer, in Tottenham last Thursday. The residents of the north London neighborhood staged a peaceful demonstration on Saturday, but the rally was soon spoiled when police and marchers clashed on the high street.

But the rioting is likely about more than just the death of Duggan, and the outflow of violence is also an outflow of frustration. England, like many European countries, is in the midst of serious fiscal inadequacies, and poor neighborhoods such as Tottenham and Hackney suffer most. Unemployment is rampant in such areas, especially among youth and minorities in north London.

Unemployment among Britons between the ages of 16 and 24 reached 20 percent in the first quarter of 2011, and is expected to get worse.