Fireworks over Kremlin as Moscow joins global New Year party

31st December 2010, Comments 0 comments

A blaze of fireworks erupted over the Kremlin in Red Square Friday as Moscow joined people around the globe welcoming in 2011 with a glittering array of parties.

But as President Dmitry Medvedev vowed in his regular New Year's Eve address to create a "powerful, open and friendly" Russia, celebrations in the country were marred by the arrests of nearly 120 protesters during New Year's Eve opposition rallies held in central Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

In Europe large crowds were set to throng landmarks like London's Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower, following a big freeze that paralysed travel and cut power and water supplies for tens of thousands.

On the Champs Elysees in Paris, thousands were gathering to welcome the New Year on one of the world's most famous streets.

"This is the place to be!" said Gillian Lancaster, 46, who had come to Paris from Britain with her husband to ring in the New Year, adding that she was hoping for "health and happiness" in 2011.

Security forces were out in full force in Paris and the rest of France, where officials said 54,000 police had been deployed to maintain order during the New Year's festivities.

In New York, workers were scrambling to plough snow out of Times Square for the famous New Year countdown, after a blizzard dumped 32 inches (80 centimetres) on the city and surrounding areas.

As many as a million people -- monitored by a high-tech police presence -- were expected to mass in Times Square.

As Sydney rung in the New Year, a fiery waterfall plunged from the landmark Harbour Bridge as seven tonnes of fireworks ignited in the night sky, thrilling 1.5 million people crammed on the city's foreshore.

Party-goers carrying blankets and camping equipment began descending on Sydney harbour more than 12 hours before the main fireworks display, with new arrivals turned away as early as 3:00 pm (0400 GMT).

"It's absolutely beautiful," said Shirley Marlin, as she watched the pyrotechnics, while her husband Ron added: "We're very, very lucky to have this harbour."

The celebrations followed devastating floods that have hit 200,000 in the country's northeast, muting the festivities there, while extreme heat prompted wildfire warnings around Melbourne and Adelaide in the south.

Earlier, the 6,000 residents of the tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati were the first to see in the new year, while New Zealand's Auckland also marked the occasion with fireworks.

In New Zealand's Christchurch, hit by a powerful earthquake in September, officials only approved celebrations after late checks and modifications, including removing the city cathedral's crucifix in case it fell on revellers.

In Asia hundreds of thousands of people gathered to watch a glittering fireworks-and-laser display along neon-lit Hong Kong's harbour. Dozens of boats also moored in Victoria Harbour for the intense five-minute display.

In Japan millions of people visited Shinto shrines to "purify" themselves.

Although Lunar New Year is a much bigger event in the continent, thousands braved Beijing's cold for the countdown at an upmarket shopping centre, while about 7,000 people had been expected at a kite-flying event in central Shanghai.

In Myanmar democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, released this year after more than seven years of house arrest, called for the country's people "to struggle together with new strengths, new force and new words in the auspicious new year".

Police were on high alert for attacks in major cities in Pakistan, where New Year celebrations are traditionally quiet, private affairs.

Violence had flared earlier Friday as police and demonstrators clashed during a mass protest strike that closed businesses across the country over a bid to end the death penalty for blasphemy.

In the financial hub Karachi -- where police fired tear gas to quell demonstrations -- thousands of Pakistanis were set to celebrate the new year on the shores of the Arabian Sea.

Revellers in India's financial and entertainment capital Mumbai -- scene of a 2008 attack that killed 166 people -- were given the go-ahead to party through the night despite intelligence about a possible militant strike.

Despite chilly and misty weather, tens of thousands of people were expected to gather in London to watch the annual New Year's Eve fireworks display set against the backdrop of the London Eye big wheel.

However with the government's austerity measures set to bite early in 2011, a survey suggested that most Britons were planning low-key festivities to save money.


© 2010 AFP

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