Happy New Year from New Zealand: How the world is seeing in 2014


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The Independent Online

As the UK counts down to midnight, countries around the world have been ringing in the New Year with a series of dazzling firework displays.

New Zealand welcomed 2014 with brightly coloured fireworks erupting from Auckland's Sky Tower at midnight on Tuesday, as thousands of cheering revellers danced in the streets of the South Pacific island nation's largest city.

Early pyrotechnic shows exploded over Sydney Harbour, dazzling hundreds of thousands viewers ahead of the main event in Australia, which officials promised would be more extravagant than ever, with more than 1.6 million revellers expected to line the harbour for a view.

Later on, Dubai will try to create the world's largest fireworks show to ring in 2014. The six-minute extravaganza will include 500,000 fireworks and Guinness World Record officials will be on hand to measure the scale of the event.

But in the Philippines there was a darker side to the festivities. More than 260 people were injured by firecracker blasts and celebratory gunfire ahead of New Year's Eve celebrations, one of Asia's most violent revelries.

Department of Health spokesman Dr. Eric Tayag said he expected the number of injuries to rise sharply when Filipinos ignite powerful firecrackers to end a year marked by tragic disasters, including a typhoon in November that left more than 6,100 dead and nearly 1,800 others missing.

"Many here are welcoming the new year after losing their mothers, fathers, siblings and children so you can imagine how it feels," said village chief Maria Rosario Bactol of Anibong community in Tacloban, the city worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan. "I tell them to face the reality, to move on and stand up but I know it will never be easy."

China was planning to count down to the New Year with light shows at two spectacular and historic locations — part of the Great Wall near Beijing and at the Bund waterfront in Shanghai.

In Japan, thousands of visitors, some donning kimono, will pray, ring a bell and toss coins as offerings at shrines, wishing for health, wealth and happiness. Temple bells will ring the customary 108 times, for the 108 causes of suffering according to Buddhism, and welcome in the Year of the Horse.

In Hong Kong, tens of thousands will turn out to watch the fireworks display over the southern Chinese city's famed Victoria Harbour. Pyrotechnics will be fired off near the Kowloon peninsula and from the tops of seven skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island. A British colonial-era canon will be fired at midnight in a tradition dating from the end of World War II.

In Indonesia, New Year's celebrations are widespread except in the city of Banda Aceh where Islamic clerics prohibit Muslims from celebrating New Year's Eve.

In the capital, Jakarta, tourism authorities estimate two million people will take part in street parties in 162 locations. Indonesian police deployed at least 92,000 policemen to safeguard the celebration across the country.