New Year’s celebrations from around the world
On a New Year’s Eve haunted by fears of terrorism, a spectacular fire in one of Dubai’s tall towers captured the world’s attention.
With few exceptions, the celebrations rolled on, and while fire still raged, the Dubai Media office declared on Twitter: “New Year celebrations in Dubai will continue as scheduled.”
As 2015 drew to a close, many people were bidding a weary and wary adieu to a year marred by attacks that left nations reeling and nerves rattled.
In Bangkok, police-flanked partygoers will ring in the new year at the site of a deadly bombing that took place just months ago. In Paris, residents recovering from their city’s own deadly attacks will enjoy scaled-back celebrations. In Belgium’s capital, authorities anxious after thwarting what they say was a holiday terror plot have cancelled festivities altogether. And in Munich, police warned of the threat of a terror attack.
A look at how people around the world are doing exactly that:
Simultaneous fireworks displays erupted along Sydney’s famed harbour, where people crowded onto balconies, into waterside parks and onto boats as they jockeyed for the best view, clinking glasses and whooping with joy as the first pyrotechnics exploded.
More than 1 million people had been expected to watch the glittery display, featuring a multicolored firework “waterfall” cascading off the Harbour Bridge and effects in the shapes of butterflies, octopuses and flowers.
Australian officials, struggling to contain the threat from home-grown extremists, encouraged revelers to enjoy the evening and assured them that thousands of extra police were patrolling major cities.
“Don’t change your way of life,” Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle urged residents of his city. “Don’t let events from around the world challenge the way that we live.”
New Zealand, the first nation with a sizable population to celebrate the New Year, counted down the seconds to midnight with a giant digital clock on Auckland’s landmark Sky Tower. Horns blared and crowds cheered as the tower was lit up with fireworks, with colours shifting from green to red to white.
New Year’s Eve is Japan’s biggest holiday, and millions of people crammed into trains to flee the cities for their hometowns to slurp down bowls of noodles, symbolizing longevity, while watching the annual “Red and White” song competition on television. As midnight approached, families bundled up for visits to neighbourhood temples, where the ritual ringing of huge bronze bells reverberated through the chill.
Tokyo was on special alert for security issues, with posters in subways and other public spaces warning people to keep their eyes open for suspicious packages or activities.
South Koreans marked New Year’s Eve with traditional bell ringing ceremonies, fireworks and outdoor music and dance performances. Thousands of people, including North Korean refugees, were expected to gather at a town near the border with rival North Korea to watch one of the ceremonies and wish for peaceful Korean unification.
Security was beefed up in Malaysia’s biggest city, Kuala Lumpur, where fireworks greeted the new year at a historic square and at the Petronas Twin Towers, one of the world’s tallest buildings.
An official New Year’s Eve celebration was staged near Beijing’s Forbidden City with performances and fireworks, and one of China’s most popular TV stations broadcast a gala from the National Stadium, known to most as the iconic Bird’s Nest.
For safety reasons, Shanghai closed subway stations near the scenic waterfront Bund, mindful of a stampede last New Year’s Eve that killed 36 people and blemished the image of China’s most prosperous metropolis.
Concern in the Philippines on New Year’s Eve focused on the use of illegal fireworks, which last year injured more than 850 people.
Shopping malls and cities organized fireworks displays to discourage people from lighting their own firecrackers.
An annual procession of the Black Nazarene, a black wooden statue of Jesus Christ, was held a day earlier than usual Thursday to prevent injuries from mounds of trash and unexploded firecrackers that litter Manila’s streets after New Year’s revelries.
Less than six months after a pipe bomb killed 20 people at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, tens of thousands are expected to ring in the new year at the same intersection with live music and a countdown.
Up to 5,000 police will be in the area, with explosive ordnance disposal experts making a sweep ahead of time.
Hotels and restaurants in and around New Delhi had been advertising grand party plans with live bands, dancing and plenty of drinks.
With security being a concern, police and anti-terror squads on Tuesday conducted mock terror-attack drills at a crowded shopping mall and food court. Witnesses, however, were unimpressed. Mona Arthur, a Delhi journalist who was in the mall at the time, dubbed the exercise a “mockery of a mock drill.”
She and a friend were shopping when two police officers ran past them. Then a security official said two terrorists had entered the mall.
“The whole thing was comical,” said Arthur, who was irritated that no information was given to shoppers on where to go or what to do.
United Arab Emirates
In the megacity of Dubai, a fire broke out two hours before midnight in The Address hotel, in the area where a massive fireworks display was being prepared.
The five-star hotel is near the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. At least one person suffered a heart attack from the smoke and over-crowding during evacuation, and 14 suffered minor injuries.
Organizers said the Burj Khalifa had been fitted with 400,000 LED lights and 1.6 tons of fireworks would be used in the display.
Burning debris rained down from The Address building as firetrucks raced to the scene. It was unclear what caused the fire, which ran up the 63-story building. The Address has 626 luxury apartments and 196 hotel rooms, according to Skyscraper Center, which tracks skyscrapers.
Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers banned New Year celebrations in the Palestinian coastal enclave. Police spokesman Ayman Batniji said hotels and restaurants were allowed to hold parties a day earlier, or a day later.
“Celebrating the new year contradicts the instructions of Islamic religion,” Batniji said. “It’s a Western custom that we don’t accept in Gaza.”
The militant Hamas group wrested control of Gaza, home to 1.8 million people, from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the secular Fatah movement in 2007.
The French are still recovering from the Nov. 13 attacks that left 130 people dead in Paris, and authorities prepared for a possible worst-case scenario on New Year’s Eve. About 60,000 police officers and troops were deployed across the country, and revelers said that made them feel safer.
French President Francois Hollande used his traditional New Year’s Eve speech to warn that the terrorist threat is still at its “highest level.”
“2015 has been a year of suffering and resistance,” he said. “Let’s make 2016 a year of courage and hope.”
Paris cancelled its usual fireworks display in favour of a 5-minute video performance at the Arc de Triomphe just before midnight, relayed on screens along the Champs Elysee, where people chanted.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the show was aimed at “sending the world the message that Paris is standing, proud of its lifestyle and living together.”
Authorities in Belgium’s capital cancelled planned New Year’s Eve fireworks amid fears of a terrorist attack.
The decision came one day after authorities arrested two men in connection with an alleged plot to unleash holiday season attacks against police, soldiers and popular locations in Brussels.
Mayor Yvan Mayeur said it would be impossible to screen the thousands of revelers who would otherwise be gathering in Brussels to ring in the new year.
Major celebrations marked by fireworks spectaculars were planned in London, Edinburgh and other big cities despite a terror threat judged to be severe. Police advised revelers not to go to the fireworks displays without tickets and to be ready to have their belongings searched.
Rio de Janeiro kicked off its Olympic year with a fiesta on Copacabana Beach attended by more than 2 million people, according to police estimates. Brazil’s most popular New Year’s Eve show was illuminated by 24 tons of fireworks fired off over almost 16 minutes.
To celebrate Rio’s hosting of the 2016 Summer Games in August, the soundtrack for revelers included music from previous Olympics and songs paying homage to samba on its 100th anniversary.
Rio authorities said they weren’t as worried about terrorism as other cities. Police used two monitoring trucks to follow suspicious movements during the party. That equipment also will be used in security operations during the Olympics.
WATCH: Ball drops in New York City for 2016
Around 1 million people were expected to converge on Times Square for the annual New Year’s Eve celebration. The party was to begin with musical acts including Luke Bryan, Charlie Puth, Demi Lovato and Carrie Underwood and end with fireworks and the descent of a glittering crystal ball from a rooftop flagpole.
This year’s festivities will were being attended by nearly 6,000 police officers, including members of a specialized counterterrorism unit.
Associated Press staffers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney; Nirmala George in New Delhi; Louise Watt in Beijing; Nicolas Garriga in Paris; Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia; Jason Corben in Bangkok; Mauricio Savarese in Rio de Janeiro; Elaine Kurtenbach in Tokyo; Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip; Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda; Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines; Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea; Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; David B. Caruso in New York; Kimberly Pierceall in Las Vegas and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.
© 2015 The Associated Press