'Only' 1,067 vehicles torched in France over New Year's Eve

PARIS (AFP) - Some 1,067 vehicles were torched in France over New Year's Eve, Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced, a marked drop from last year in what has become a turn-of-the-year tradition in rundown areas.

Every year, the night of Dec 31 to Jan 1 sees hundreds of cars set ablaze across the country in an orgy of vandalism - as much a tradition as champagne and oysters in more affluent parts of France.

Briefing reporters late on Wednesday, Mr Valls said the number of cars torched over this New Year's Eve had dropped by more than 10 per cent.

The Seine-Saint-Denis department that neighbours Paris, the poorest in France, was the clear winner with a total of 80 burnt cars, he added.

Authorities had stopped publishing official figures of the number of burnt cars after it was discovered a district-by-district breakdown was fuelling a destructive competition between rival gangs.

But last year, Mr Valls had promised to publish the figures again.

Some 53,000 policemen were deployed across the country during New Year's Eve to try and avoid any violence, but three people were knifed and died, including one in Paris.