Berlin, 1 January 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Revellers rang in the new year with parties and fireworks across Europe as clocks struck midnight and the continent followed Asia, Africa and the Middle East into the year 2020.
Thousands of tourists and Berliners flocked to Germany’s largest New Year’s Eve party near the Brandenburg Gate landmark.
So many people had already arrived by around 8 pm (1900 GMT) that the entrances to the party area in the centre of the German capital were closed to prevent overcrowding, the organizers said.
In Belgium, the start of the New Year was marked by a firework display at Brussels’ iconic Atomium while in Bruges spectators saw a new kind of show: the traditional firework display has been abandoned in favour of a light spectacle using drones, the Belga news agency reported.
French party-goers faced greater challenges than usual to reach their destinations as a transport strike left local and long-distance travel extremely disrupted. The celebrations in the French capital Paris usually attract several million people. Additional bus services had been arranged to bring people home safely.
Despite ongoing renovations at the Houses of Parliament, Britain’s iconic Big Ben clock rang in the New Year in London, accompanied by a huge fireworks display at the London Eye Ferris wheel on the bank of the River Thames.
In Scotland to the north, tens of thousands of people took part in Edinburgh’s traditional Hogmanay celebrations.
Russian revellers celebrated on Red Square in Moscow amid tight security. New Year’s is celebrated in a total of 11 times zones across the vast Russian Federation.
This year’s festivities also marked the 20th anniversary of President Vladimir Putin taking over the helm from Boris Yeltsin.
The year began in spectacular style in the United Arab Emirates, which used some 190 drones to set off fireworks in Ras al Khaimah.
The small emirate also tried to break the world record for the longest fireworks waterfall, with a display some four kilometres long, according to local media.
Fireworks were not on the agenda for many South Africans, on the other hand, as the authorities banned setting them off in public places except under strict conditions.
New Year’s Eve in the tourist hub Cape Town is instead a night of parties, cocktails and concerts.
The night of global celebrations began with the tiny South Pacific island states of Samoa and Kiribati, which were the first countries to welcome in the New Year.
Fireworks burst over Samoa’s 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.
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.
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.
The New Year got off to a quiet start in China and Hong Kong as the clock struck midnight.
Hong Kong made a last-minute decision on Tuesday to scrap its major midnight fireworks show in favour of a more muted display with protests planned for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Pro-democracy protests have roiled the Special Administrative Region of China for months.
December 31 is usually a calm day in China. The real celebrations wait for January 25, with the start of the new year in the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. Next year is the year of the rat.
On a rainy night in the Taiwanese capital Taipei hundreds of thousands packed 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.
The 300-second fireworks show at midnight included 16,000 fireworks combined with animations featuring Taiwan on a giant wall of 140,000 LED bulbs on the building’s exterior from the 35th to the 90th floor.
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.