Europe and Asia kick off New Year with spectacular fireworks displays
Europe began to usher in 2015 on Thursday with a spectacular fireworks display in Moscow after Hong Kong led the party in Asia.
Red and green fireworks lit up the sky over St Basil’s Cathedral in the Russian capital after Dubai had laid on a similarly impressive show.
From New Delhi to Dubai, Johannesburg, New York and Rio, millions around the world celebrated as the clock ticked past midnight, ringing in 2015 with fireworks displays, concerts and light shows.
But in China, celebrations in the Bund area of Shanghai went awry as state media reported a “stampede” that saw people taken to hospital.
Official news agency Xinhua offered no further details on the size of the stampede or the extent of the injuries.
Dubai celebrated the New Year with a light and sound extravaganza at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower.
The 828-metre (2,716-foot) tower was lit up with different-coloured panels as the clock counted down to 2015.
In Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of people crowded the city’s promenades to watch the eight-minute pyrotechnic display after a year which had seen busy thoroughfares paralysed by pro-democracy protests in the final months of 2014.
“I think a more peaceful year would be good for everybody,” said Louis Ho, 65. Students on one promenade handed out free hugs.
Earlier, Australia’s biggest city kicked off the global New Year celebrations with a massive fireworks display that lit up Sydney Harbour, defying terrorist fears days after a deadly siege.
Tonnes of fireworks exploded over the harbour, watched by a crowd estimated at over one million.
“We are celebrating that we are a multicultural, harmonious community but we will be thinking about what happened,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in reference to the drama when an Iranian-born gunman took 17 hostages in a cafe. Two hostages and the gunman died.
Russia enters 2015 locked in its bitterest standoff with the West since the Cold War, sparked by Moscow’s annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea.
President Vladimir Putin, who first came to power on New Year’s Eve 1999, sent a greeting to US counterpart Barack Obama, saying the two countries share mutual responsibility to ensure world peace.
But in a separate message to Russians, he defiantly said the people of Crimea had “firmly decided to go back home”.
– Remembrance for lost AirAsia flight –
In Taiwan the landmark skyscraper Taipei 101 was at the centre of celebrations, with performances by pop singers and a firework display at midnight expected to attract hundreds of thousands.
And in Japan, the Meiji Jingu shrine in Tokyo brought out stocks of lucky charms and set up large offertory boxes as it prepared to welcome a huge wave of worshippers overnight.
Hundreds of revellers were due to gather around a popular British-colonial era shopping arcade in central Delhi to greet the New Year, braving unusually chilly weather. Pubs and eateries were festooned with fairy lights and brightly coloured balloons.
But in Malaysia, a sombre mood prevailed after the crash of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 carrying 162 people in Indonesia and flooding in the country’s northeast which has displaced almost 250,000 people.
Year-end countdown celebrations have been cancelled, with many companies instead launching fundraising campaigns for flood victims.
In Indonesia, Surabaya was holding a candlelight vigil in the hours leading up till midnight to remember the people on the plane which departed that city on Sunday.
In Afghanistan, the last French troops in the country held a ceremony in Kabul to mark the end of their deployment after NATO combat operations closed down as a new “train and support” mission takes over.
– Hasselhoff in Berlin –
The end of another era was to be remembered in Berlin with “Baywatch” star David Hasselhoff joining a huge open air concert in front of the Brandenburg Gate, where he famously sang for freedom after the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago.
Dubai has promised to dazzle again with a pyrotechnic and lights show at Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower.
In Paris, the Champs-Elysees will be reserved for pedestrians to let them watch a visual spectacle projected onto the Arc de Triomphe 15 minutes before the start of the new year.
The ticking of the clock past midnight will be significant for Lithuania as it adopts the euro. Another Baltic state, Latvia, takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union, putting it on the front line of negotiations with neighbouring Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.
In Spain, millions of revellers will descend on Madrid’s Puerta del Sol while in Barcelona a massive fireworks display will be held.
London stages New Year’s Eve fireworks along the Thames and Edinburgh will be holding its traditional Hogmanay street party.
Marking 2015 on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, more than two million people are expected to attend a huge fireworks show that will open celebrations marking 450 years since the founding of the city.
And in New York about one million revellers were expected to descend on Times Square to watch the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop.