The century ended with a cacophony of bangs and whimpers: Nato cluster bombs exploding in Serbia; British guns blazing on the streets of Sierra Leone; Russian shells raining down on Grozny. The cries and groans came from the victims and their families: those drowned in the paddy fields of Orissa, buried alive in the Turkish earthquake, and slaughtered in East Timor. But it was also a year in which the voiceless made themselves heard. Mass protest was reborn on the Internet, and spilled out on to the streets of London and Seattle. The Internet also allowed the Columbine High School killers to further their murderous fantasies, and - for the first time - enabled communication between the populations of warring states. The following photographs don't attempt to catalogue every momentous event of 1999, but they do aim to present its most powerful images. Images which, when the explosions and the sobs fall silent, will speak as loud as ever

Mir space station, 11 August (photograph by Jean-Pierre Haignere)

The French fashion designer Paco Rabanne predicted that the Russian space station Mir would fall out of orbit and crash on Paris during August's eclipse. Fortunately - as this view of the moon's shadow traversing the English Channel demonstrates - no such disaster took place. The photograph was shot by Haignere, a French astronaut, as Mir passed over the Massif Centrale. On the other side of the Channel, Britons got their first total solar blackout for 70 years, but the most apocalyptic event reported in the UK was off the coast of Newquay, when disorientated seals attacked a group of bathers.

Soho, London, 30 April (Neil Libbert)

Drinkers at the Admiral Duncan on Old Compton Street were the final victims of a series of nail bombs which plagued London in April. The first two attacks appeared to be racially motivated: devices exploded in Brixton and on Brick Lane, centres of the city's black and Asian communities. Fortunately, there were no fatalities. The bomb at the Admiral Duncan - a popular gay pub - injured 70 people and killed three, one a pregnant woman. The following Sunday, David Copeland, a 22-year-old engineer from Farnborough, Hampshire, was charged with causing the explosions and three counts of murder. David Veness, the Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, said that Copeland was acting alone: "There is no suggestion at this stage that the arrest is linked in any way to the extreme right-wing groups which have been reportedly claiming responsibility for these attacks on innocent people."

Amman, Jordan, 7 February (Jockel Fink)

King Hussein of Jordan survived a number of assassination attempts - his enemies employed every method from shooting at his car to poisoning his nose drops - but it was cancer that put an end to his 46-year reign. His death, at the age of 63, generated scenes of extraordinary public grief in Jordan's capital, Amman. As a boy, he witnessed the assassination of his grandfather, King Abdullah: "On that terrible day I learnt the importance of death; that when you have to die, you die, for it is God's judgement." In this photograph, mourners surge towards a line of police outside the King Hussein Medical Centre, where the king's life-support machine had been switched off.

City of London, 18 June (Neville Elder)

A demonstrator faces up to riot police during the "Carnival against Capitalism", a protest by an alliance of groups including Jubilee 2000 and Reclaim the Streets that was timed to coincide with the June G8 summit. Four thousand marchers brought the City of London to a standstill. By the end of the day, 16 people had been arrested, 46 hospitalised, and pounds 2m worth of damage had been caused. A Daimler and a Mercedes were set alight, and protesters used scaffolding poles to smash the windows of banks and trading firms. One motorist was dragged from his car and doused in bleach. Besieged traders responded by showering the demonstrators with photocopied pounds 50 notes.

Athens, 16 February

A demonstrator immolates himself in front of the Greek parliament to protest against the capture of Abdullah Ocalan. Greece's refusal to grant asylum to the Kurdish separatist leader forced him to flee to Kenya, where he was abducted by Turkish agents. Although Ocalan has been sentenced to death by a court in Ankara, Turkey may never carry out its threat to kill him for fear of putting the country's proposed EU membership at risk.

Becora, East Timor, 26 August (Paula Bronstein)

Four days before the people of East Timor voted to break away from the control of Indonesia, the anti-independence militia were already bringing terror to the streets of Becora, the most deprived district of the capital, Dili. During the violence, an estimated 250,000 people fled their homes. Despite UN intervention, around 137,000 refugees remain encamped in Indonesian West Timor, too afraid of militia attacks to return.

Orissa, India, 5 November (Baldev)

On the night of 29 October, the poorest state in India was struck by winds of 150mph and a 20ft tidal wave. Whole villages were swept away and 12 million people were made instantly homeless. Relief operations were chaotic: local bureaucrats were accused of looting aid supplies and many fled the country for fear of being lynched. When the flood waters receded a month later, the paddy fields were left strewn with bodies.

Freetown, Sierra Leone, 18 February (Patrick Robert)

The civil war in Sierra Leone produced some of the year's most atrocious violence. This woman, suspected of sympathising with the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front, has been beaten and humiliated by government soldiers. The country's descent into anarchy proved a magnet for hired mercenaries, many from the former Soviet Union. Even those despatched to restore the rule of law have become involved in the terror: Ecomog, the Nigerian- led peacekeeping force attempting to police the area, was accused by the UN of carrying out the summary execution of civilians. And in the UK, the "Arms to Africa" affair revealed that British guns were being used in the conflict.

Lapusnik, Kosovo, 22 June (Joachim Ladefoged)

A family returns home to find that their father has been killed by a landmine one day before their arrival. The Serbs laid over 600 minefields in Kosovo, containing tens of thousands of anti- personnel devices, while 14,000 unexploded Nato cluster bombs added to the lethal hazard. In the first month after Nato forces entered the disputed territory, there were 200 casualties from anti-personnel mines. Explosives expert Major Andy Phillips said: "Cluster bombs are a particular problem as they are brightly coloured canisters. They look innocuous to children."

Yalova, Turkey, 20 August

(Pascal le Segretain)

After Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan was kidnapped by Turkish security agents, his supporters vowed to exact terrible revenge. When a series of earthquakes reduced a number of towns in north-west Turkey to rubble, geology seemed to be acting on their behalf. One of the worst hit places was Yalova, an up-and-coming Black Sea resort, where this child was pulled from the debris by emergency workers. The quakes claimed over 12,500 lives, and hit Turkey's already sickly economy. Relief operations were criticised: emergency camps in Yalova were flooded, forcing the homeless to spend the night on their feet.

Littleton, Colorado, 20 April

(George Kochaniec)

Students comfort each other in the aftermath of the killing spree at Columbine High. On the morning of Tuesday 20 April, two pupils, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, burst into their school and opened fire with semi-automatic weapons, killing 11 pupils and one teacher. Members of a schoolyard gang who dubbed themselves the "Trenchcoat Mafia", Harris and Klebold had spent a year planning the massacre. They posted death threats on an Internet website and constructed pipe bombs in their bedrooms. Then, after the destruction was over, they turned their guns on themselves in the school library.

Las Vegas, 13 November

(Eric Draper)

Evander Holyfield, left, fights a losing battle against Lennox Lewis at the Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas. The fight was a re-match, after judges had - perversely - declared their first bout together a draw. And was it worth the effort? "Inasmuch as the result provoked no congressional inquiries, you might say it was a great night for boxing," wrote Richard Hoffer in the US magazine Sports Illustrated. "Nobody died in the ring, the performers were good sportsmen, and there was no obvious malfeasance at ringside. And, yes, the sport has, at long last, an undisputed heavyweight champion."

Paddington, London, 5 October (Peter Macdiarmid)

Firemen douse down wreckage after the Paddington rail crash, which occurred during the morning rush hour when the 6.03 Cheltenham to London express collided with the 8.06 Paddington to Bedwyn train, killing 31 people. One survivor described the scene: "Some were very badly burnt. They were coming out of a carriage with their clothes still alight. We found one man whose head, face and arms were badly burnt. Another lady couldn't move her arms because her burnt skin was cracking. Some of her hair was still there, but most had burnt away."

Hong Kong, 26 August (Vincent Yu)

Astoundingly, there were only two deaths when this China Airlines MD11 crashed on to the runway at Chek Lap Kok airport, Hong Kong. The flight from Bangkok hit trouble when attempting to land during a 90mph storm. A wing hit the runway, sending up a ball of flame two- storeys high. The aircraft careered out of control and overturned, leaving a trail of blazing fuel on the Tarmac. A Portuguese woman and a Taiwanese man died of their injuries as they hung upside down from their safety harnesses. The crash has cast doubt on the safety of the design of Hong Kong's new pounds 9.4bn airport.

Zurs, Austria, February

A series of avalanches in the Tyrol region killed 37 people and scared thousands of holidaymakers. "Suddenly the sky went black and a huge cloud of powder snow covered the whole village," said an eyewitness in the ski resort of Galtur. "It smothered every window in the hotel and people outside were totally covered." Lech, St Anton and Zurs were among the resorts temporarily cut off from the outside world.

Barcelona, 26 May (Ross Kinnaird)

Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel lifts the European Champions League trophy after his team defeated Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp stadium, Barcelona. Two goals in the final minute of the game - scored by Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - made Alex Ferguson the first manager of an English club to win the Champions League, Premiership and FA Cup treble. "I can't believe it," he said. "I can't believe it. Bloody hell." n

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