Spectacular Sydney fireworks kick off global New Year party

Enthusiastic crowds across the world are all set to welcome 2011.

Sydney: Sydney`s Harbour Bridge exploded in a spectacular blaze of New Year fireworks Friday as people around the globe began welcoming in 2011 with a glittering array of parties.

A fiery waterfall plunged from the landmark Australian structure as seven tonnes of fireworks ignited in the night sky, thrilling 1.5 million people crammed on the city`s foreshore.

The celebrations follow 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.

Earlier, the 6,000 residents of the tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati, just east of the international dateline, were the first to see in the New Year, while New Zealand`s Auckland also marked the occasion with fireworks.

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.

And 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.

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."

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.

Bureau Report

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