Revellers to usher in 2010 with fireworks and parties

Revellers across the globe prepared on Thursday to ring in the New Year with fireworks and festivities under tight security after a narrowly-averted Christmas Day airline bomb plot in the United States.

Sydney: Revellers across the globe prepared on Thursday to ring in the New Year with fireworks and festivities under tight security after a narrowly-averted Christmas Day airline bomb plot in the United States.
Partygoers from Tuvalu to Tijuana were set to raise a glass to bid farewell to 2009 and usher in a new decade, closing the door on 10 years scarred by wars, terror attacks, natural disasters and financial turmoil.

In Sydney, the world`s first major city to see in the New Year, around 1.5 million people were expected to crowd the harbour foreshore for a high-tech fireworks display on the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Paris` Eiffel Tower was to be transformed into a multicoloured light show while in Berlin, more than one million revellers were expected on the boulevard leading to the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of German unity.

Celebrations in Britain centre on the London Eye, the giant wheel across the river Thames from the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, as the world`s most famous clock heralds the start of the New Year.

A downpour of confetti was to mark the moment at New York`s traditional mass celebration in Times Square in the heart of Manhattan.

Heavy security was expected in most cities after a failed Christmas Day bombing of a US passenger jet claimed by al Qaeda rekindled fears of further attacks.

As huge crowds watch the traditional crystal ball marking the final countdown to 2010, undercover police, surveillance cameras, uniformed teams and radiation and biological detection equipment will be monitoring them.

No backpacks or alcohol will be allowed in Times Square.

"It will be a full fledged deployment of resources," city police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. "We assume here that New York is the number one terrorist target in America."

Highlighting security jitters, the square was briefly evacuated Wednesday after police discovered what they said was a suspicious vehicle.

A police spokesman said the false alarm was caused by someone who "simply parked illegally in the wrong place at the wrong time of year".

As the clock ticks past midnight in Sydney, about 4,500 kilograms (9,900 pounds) of fireworks will blast into the night sky, including one of a giant lollipop and another of the stars of the Southern Cross constellation.

As thousands of people began gathering for the celebrations, police minister Michael Daley urged revellers to keep a lid on their drinking.

"Whether you`re drink-driving, riding a push bike while you`re drunk, behaving like an idiot on one of our buses or trains, or underage drinking, police will be there to make sure they catch you," he said.

Around half a million revellers were expected to crowd Hong Kong`s harbourfront to watch 9,000 fireworks set off from the tops of 10 city skyscrapers in a formation resembling a dragon.

But in Thailand, police have banned fireworks and pyrotechnic displays after a New Year`s Eve blaze at a Bangkok nightclub a year ago killed 65 revellers.

Multiple bomb blasts in the Thai capital on New Year`s Eve 2006 killed three people and left 42 injured, and this year there was expected to be a heavy police presence across the city with bomb disposal teams on standby.

One place where security was to be less of a concern was in Indian Kashmir, thanks to a drop in militant attacks, and locals were set to enjoy some of the first major New Year celebrations in the Himalayan region in two decades.

The Indian resort state of Goa has seen a massive influx of domestic and foreign tourists after a ban on its famed beach parties imposed after last year`s militant attacks on Mumbai was lifted.

Indonesia was on high alert after July suicide bombings in two top Jakarta hotels, with police on guard to protect churches and shopping malls.

Security was already tight in Afghanistan and Pakistan after a year of bloodshed for both countries, which are fighting growing insurgencies from al Qaeda and Taliban-linked militants.

For international troops in Afghanistan, it was to be business as usual, with soldiers maintaining their normal schedule of operations.

In Pakistan, hardliners who consider New Year festivities anti-Islamic have in the past gate-crashed luxury hotels and broken up parties.

In Karachi, the young welcome in the New Year with gunfire and crackers, but a suicide attack this week has dampened enthusiasm.

Bureau Report