World welcomes New Year 2013 with fireworks, festivities

Celebrations were held for the first time in Myanmar after a long span of five decades under military rule that banned big public gatherings.

Zeenews Bureau

London: Cities across the world ringed in the New Year 2013 with spectacular fireworks lighting up the skyline and a host of festivities and merry-making marking the occasion from Sydney in Europe to Myanmar in Asia.

Celebrations were held for the first time in Myanmar after a long span of five decades under military rule that banned big public gatherings.

Over 90,000 people experienced the country`s first New Year`s Eve countdown in a field in the largest city of Yangon.

Tens of thousands of people lined Hong Kong`s Victoria Harbor to view a $1.6 million fireworks display, said to be the biggest ever in the southern Chinese city.

In North Korea, cannons boomed at midnight in Pyongyang as people crowded the streets of the capital to watch a fireworks show over the Taedong River. After being in mourning a year ago regarding leader Kim Jong Il`s death, North Koreans celebrated the end of a big year that included the rise of new leader Kim Jong Un and the recent launch of a satellite into space.

Hotels, clubs and other sites in New Delhi, the Indian capital, cancelled festivities after the death Saturday of a young rape victim touched off days of mourning and reflection about women`s safety. People were asked to light candles to express their solidarity with the victim.

In Indonesia, Jakarta`s street party centered on a 7-kilometer (4-mile) thoroughfare closed to traffic from nightfall until after midnight. Workers erected 16 large stages along the normally clogged, eight-lane highway through the heart of the city. Indonesia`s booming economy is a rare bright spot amid global gloom and is bringing prosperity — or the hope of it — to its people.

In the Philippines, where many are recovering from devastation from a recent typhoon, health officials have hit upon a successful way to stop revelers from setting off huge illegal firecrackers that maim and injure hundreds of Filipinos each year.

Huge fireworks lit up skylines in Sydney, Hong Kong and Shanghai, and even the once-isolated country of Myanmar joined the countdown party for the first time in decades.

Celebrations were planned around the world, including the traditional crystal ball drop in New York City`s Times Square, where 1 million people were expected to cram into the surrounding streets.

In Russia, Moscow`s iconic Red Square was filled with spectators as fireworks exploded near the Kremlin to welcome in the new year. Earlier in the day, about 25 people were reportedly arrested in Moscow for trying to hold an unsanctioned demonstration. But President Vladimir Putin gave an optimistic New Year`s Eve address, making no reference to the anti-government protests that have occurred in his country in the past year.

In Australia, a balmy summer night was split by 7 tons of fireworks fired from rooftops and barges in Sydney, many cascading from the city`s Harbor Bridge, in a $6.9 million pyrotechnic extravaganza billed by organizers as the world`s largest.

In austerity-hit Europe, the mood was more restrained — if hopeful. The year 2013 is projected to be a sixth straight one of recession amid Greece`s worst economic crisis since World War II. In fact, the new year was starting with a 24-hour strike by subway and train workers in Athens to protest salary cuts that are part of the government`s austerity measures.

Still, in his televised New Year`s Eve message, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras promised Greeks that the worst of the crisis is past, and declared 2013 a "year of hope" that will see the beginning of the country`s rebirth.

Celebrating New Year`s Eve with a vespers service in St. Peter`s Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI said that despite all the injustice in the world, goodness prevails. In his homily, Benedict said it`s tough to remember that goodness can win when bad news — death, violence and injustice — "makes more noise than good." He said taking time to meditate in prolonged reflection and prayer can help "find healing from the inevitable wounds of daily life."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel`s New Year`s message warned her country to prepare for difficult economic times ahead. Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, decided to cancel celebrations in light of the economic crisis. Nicosia said 16,000 euros ($21,000) saved from the canceled event will be given to some 320 needy schoolchildren.

In Spain, where a recession has left unemployment at a staggering 25 percent, people are hoping for a better new year.

With Agency Inputs

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