High winds force New Year celebrations to be cancelled

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The Independent Online

New Year celebrations for tens of thousands of revellers were ruined last night as high winds and torrential rain forced the cancellation of outdoor events.

The conditions caused the massive Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh and Glasgow to be scrapped at the last minute.

More than 100,000 had been expected to join the party in the vicinity of Edinburgh's Princes Street. Organisers had earlier in the evening insisted the event would go ahead despite forecasts of 70mph winds across central Scotland. About 25,000 revellers had been expected to see in 2007 at George Square in Glasgow city centre, but the council urged partygoers to stay away.

Firework displays at Newcastle upon Tyne and Liverpool were cancelled, and an outdoor concert in Belfast was moved indoors.

The UK was forecast to be lashed by wind and rain last night, with gales being especially fierce in Northern Ireland and the south of Scotland.

However, the stormy weather failed to dampen spirits at many outdoor parties, which took place despite the prediction of driving wind and rain.

In Glasgow city centre, the forecast of 70mph gusts and lashing rain caused the local authority to cancel the party hours before artists were set to take to the stage. Midnight would have been celebrated by fireworks and by the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band. Some revellers had already started to gather in the square when the event was called off. Angela McLeod, 21, had travelled from Inverness to go to the party with friends. She said: "It is short notice but I suppose they have to put safety first and the weather has been awful. We'll have to go and find somewhere else to have our party."

A fireworks display in Newcastle upon Tyne ­ the culmination of the city's month-long Winter Festival ­ was cancelled.

Belfast City Council said the decision to cancel its outdoor Rock the Hall concert, due to be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2, had been taken because of safety reasons. Up to 10,000 were expected to line the streets outside City Hall to listen to acts including the singers Tony Christie and Beverly Knight, and the rock band the Thrills. The event was shifted to an indoor venue without an audience.

A fireworks display at St George's Plateau in Liverpool was called off because of the weather. It will go ahead on Friday.

In Edinburgh, a huge outdoor celebration had been planned. The Pet Shop Boys and Paolo Nutini were to lead the evening, followed by a fireworks display.

Three years ago, Edinburgh's Hogmanay was also cancelled on safety grounds after strong winds.

Otherevents expected to go ahead last night included a beach party in Brighton hosted by the DJ Fatboy Slim. About 200,000 were expected to gather in the centre of London, and at the end of the evening lighting and projections on the South Bank were due to be followed by a 10-minute fireworks display at midnight at the London Eye.

Organisers of the New Year's Day Parade in London said it would go ahead. Today's free event in the capital will see marching bands, clowns and vintage cars make their way through the West End.

In Sydney, one of the world's first big cities to usher in the new year, hundreds of thousands crammed the harbour shore for a lavish fireworks display celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Harbour Bridge.

In Japan, thousands climbed mountains ­ some scaling Mount Fuji ­ to greet the first dawn. Many Japanese, ranging from families with children to elderly couples, usually start climbing at night to reach the top in time for sunrise.

At least a million revellers were expected to flood the Times Square area in unseasonably warm New York to see performances by the singers Christina Aguilera and Toni Braxton.

Britain's severe weather is expected to start dying out today, and by lunchtime the centre of the storm will have moved on to Sweden.

The bad weather claimed the life of Rebecca Smith, 18, who died early on Saturday when a 60ft tree toppled on to a caravan in Cheadle, Staffordshire. Two other teenagers inside the caravan escaped injury when the beech tree crushed the 30ft vehicle.

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