Sydney Fireworks Dazzle as Asia-Pacific Greets New Year

Posted December 31st, 2012 at 10:35 am (UTC-5)
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A gigantic fireworks display has lit up Sydney harbor as Australia and other Asia-Pacific nations become the first to welcome the new year.

An estimated 1.5 million people gathered around the Sydney harbor on a warm summer night to see the $6.9 million fireworks show, with some camping out for much of the day to get a good vantage point. Many more watched on television around the world as Australian pop star Kylie Minogue pressed a button to start the annual extravaganza, with fireworks shooting up from barges and the iconic Harbor Bridge.

In Japan, Buddhist monks sounded a bell at Tokyo's Asakusa temple in a traditional midnight ceremony. Millions of Japanese visited Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines to pray for good luck in 2013.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Hong Kong on the opposite sides of the city's harbor for a first-of-its kind New Year's Eve display, featuring pyrotechnics launched from both the water and surrounding skyscrapers.

Authorities in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, closed a major highway to all traffic to make way for the city's first New Year's Eve street carnival with dance and pop performances on 16 stages.

Burma's largest city Rangoon was staging a big New Year's Eve party for the first time, as the country emerges from a decades-long military dictatorship that ended last year and typically banned large public gatherings. Around 50,000 people were expected to attend Rangoon's countdown, fireworks and live music show.

In the southern Philippines, the festive mood was overshadowed by the devastation from a typhoon that killed more than 1,000 people in early December. Philippine authorities also were bracing for injuries as many revellers were expected to set off dangerous firecrackers and fire gunshots into the air.

Many hotels and bars in India scaled down or canceled New Year's Eve parties out of respect for a young woman who died Saturday after she was gang raped in New Delhi — a brutal incident that shocked the nation.