PICS: New decade greeted with celebrations in eastern hemisphere

By By dpa correspondents Time of article published Dec 31, 2019

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Sydney - Revellers in the eastern hemisphere rang in the New Year and a new decade with festivities and fireworks as Tuesday moved into Wednesday.

The tiny South Pacific island states of Samoa and Kiribati were the first countries to welcome in the new year.

Fireworks burst over Samoa'a capital, Apia, where tourists mingled with islanders to ring in 2020.

Samoa, which has a population of 200,000, moved to New Year's Eve pole position in 2011 when it decided to redraw the international dateline.

Its westward jump across the dateline means it is now among the first inhabited places on Earth to greet the new year.

The biggest fireworks in New Zealand were blasted from the top of Auckland's iconic Sky Tower, this year with lasers and animations for the first time, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Flags on the Sydney Harbour Bridge were flying at half mast for the victims of the massive fires hitting eastern Australia before the fireworks lit up the sky to welcome in 2020.

The enthusiasm of the 1 million revellers gathered on the foreshore didn't appear to be dampened by the tragedy of the ferocious fires that took 12 lives and destroyed more than 1,000 homes across Australia in the past six weeks.

Despite controversy over whether the display should go ahead after the fires, the enormous crowd roared as 36,000 individual fireworks lit up the sky over the harbour at midnight, the images beamed to an estimated 1 billion people around the world.

Bells at Buddhist temples chimed to close the old year and welcome the new in Japan, where millions throng shrines and temples during the first three days of 2020 to pray for happiness and prosperity.

Hong Kong made a last-minute decision on Tuesday to scrap its midnight fireworks display with protests planned for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

In the Taiwanese capital Taipei, hundreds of thousands are expected to pack the downtown area for a fireworks display at the 509-metre tall Taipei 101 high-rise building, one of the tallest buildings in the world.

In Europe, Germany welcomes 2020 at the Brandenburg Gate amid new regulations banning people from setting off firecrackers and rockets at the Berlin landmark and surrounding party zone.

The high cost of fireworks, which saw Germany spending some 133 million euros (149 million dollars) last year, led to a serious debate across the country to ban them entirely.

In Belgium, the start of the new year is due to be marked by a firework display at Brussels' iconic Atomium, a landmark molecular-shaped building designed for the 1958 Brussels World Fair.

The Belgian city of Bruges, meanwhile, plans to replace its traditional firework with a light spectacle using drones this year, the Belga news agency reported.

In France, there is concern that a running transport strike could mar celebrations in the French capital Paris, which usually attracts several million revellers.

Britain plans to ring in the new year with a huge fireworks display at the London Eye Ferris wheel on the bank of the River Thames; while in Scotland to the north, tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations.

In New York, more than 1 million people are expected to flock to Times Square - an area of several blocks around midtown Manhattan - for the ball drop at midnight.

Los Angeles and Honolulu round out the US reverie, while Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro are among the top New Year's Eve party locations in Latin America.

American Samoa, located about 125 kilometres east of Samoa, where the celebrations started, will be among the last to show 2019 - and the decade - the door.   


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