New York | Millions of revelers took to the streets from Sydney to New York to usher in 2015, but celebrations turned to tragedy in China, where 36 people were killed in a stampede in central Shanghai. As many as a million partygoers braved frigid temperatures and poured into New York’s Times Square for America’s annual New Year party that this year featured pop sensation Taylor Swift.
Merrymakers in the Big Apple were kissing and snapping selfies as a giant illuminated crystal ball slid down a pole, touching ground at precisely the stroke of midnight. As Times Square erupted in cheers and confetti, the rest of the globe celebrated with spectacular fireworks displays in cities from Sydney to Moscow.
Chaos broke out in China’s financial hub as people packed the Bund district to welcome the New Year. In addition to the dead, 42 people were injured in the crush, which happened shortly before midnight, Shanghai’s government said in a statement, adding that the incident was under investigation.
Tragedy also struck in the Philippines where, in what has become an annual tide of New Year’s injuries, firecrackers and gunfire left more than 350 people injured, with more than a dozen requiring amputations. Those tragic notes were struck on a night filled with hopes for a more peaceful year than 2014. The optimism was demonstrated in Australia, where an estimated one million people flocked to a massive fireworks display in Sydney Harbour, defying terrorist fears days after a deadly siege.
We are celebrating that we are a multicultural, harmonious community but we will be thinking about what happened, Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in reference to the deadly standoff when an Iranian-born gunman took 17 hostages in a cafe.
In Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of people crowded the city’s promenades to watch an eight-minute pyrotechnic display after a year in which busy thoroughfares were paralysed for months by pro-democracy protests. I think a more peaceful year would be good for everybody, said Louis Ho, 65. Europe’s celebrations kicked off in Moscow, where red and green fireworks lit up the sky over St Basil’s Cathedral, bringing oohs and aahs from the crowd braving sub-zero conditions. President Vladimir Putin sent a greeting to his US counterpart Barack Obama, saying they had a mutual responsibility to ensure world peace after a year that has seen relations between Russia and the West sink to their worst point since the Cold War.
Obama’s office, meanwhile, said he planned to usher in the New Year in Hawaii with family and friends as he winds down a two-week vacation and prepares to head back to Washington this weekend. Across Asia, revelers celebrated with fireworks and music, with hundreds of thousands crowding near the landmark skyscraper Taipei 101 to watch performances by pop singers. But in Malaysia, a sombre mood prevailed after the crash of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 carrying 162 people and flooding in the northeast that has displaced almost 250,000.
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