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As it happenedended1577815958

New Year’s Eve 2019 – live: Revellers descend on London to welcome new decade, as Sydney fireworks display prompts fury amid wildfires

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Andrew Griffin,Vincent Wood
Tuesday 31 December 2019 19:00 GMT
New Year celebrations around the world for 2020

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Louise Thomas

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The world is set to mark the end of the year, and the decade, as 2019 comes to a close – and while spectacular firework displays are expected to herald in the 2020s across the globe, some threaten to be overshadowed by ongoing events.

In Australia, New Year’s Eve celebrations have been marred by wildfires which have threatened to cause mass evacuations in population hubs including Victoria in the east of the country.

Meanwhile Hong Kong has braced for fresh protests over Chinese influence in the region to interrupt festivities.

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​Sydney fire chief refuses to rule out cancelling display amid wildfires

Australia’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are set to be marred by the wildfires that have gripped much of the southern hemisphere nation’s east coast since August.

Several planned fireworks displays have been cancelled over fears of exacerbating the blazes – including those expected to go ahead in the capital of Canberra. Sydney’s fire chief has also refused to rule out scrapping the city’s display.

Two more people died, five others were missing feared dead and thousands were evacuated to beaches as Australia's most devastating wildfire season on record worsened on Tuesday.

Police said a father and son died in the early hours of Tuesday defending their home in Cobargo, near the coast in the state of New South Wales, 280 miles south of Sydney.

Vincent Wood31 December 2019 07:50

Australian PM says Sydney show must go on

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has said the Sydney fireworks display should go ahead despite the wildfires continuing to rage in the region.

"On New Year's Eve, the world looks at Sydney." he said, "Every single year. And they look at our vibrancy, they look at our passion, they look at our success.

"And so in the midst of the challenges that we have face, subject to the safety considerations, I can think of no better time to express to the world just how optimistic and positive we are as a country."

However In response to the comment, Sydney's fire chief Shane Fitzsimmons warned: "If I determine it to be too risky, that doesn't concern me."

Vincent Wood31 December 2019 08:10

Two hours to midnight for Kiribati

The first nation to celebrate New Year's Eve is less than two hours away from popping the champagne.

The first to ring in 2020 will be Kiribati's Christmas Island - seeing in the the new year a full hour ahead of New Zealand and four hours before Sydney. 

The last places left clinging on to 2019 are also set to be Pacific islands - with US territories Baker and Howland Island  just under a day and four hours from celebrating. Both are uninhabited.

Vincent Wood31 December 2019 08:17

UK weather: Fog expected to lift for cool and clear New Year's Eve

Thick fog which has shrouded much of the UK is due to fade by Tuesday morning, as the Met Office predicts a cool but clear evening for New Year's Eve celebrations.

Revellers will need to wrap up warm as they head out to ring in 2020, with Tuesday set to be a colder day for the whole country.

A north-south temperature divide means some areas of Scotland and eastern England could even see a touch of frost.

Maximum temperatures of 10C to 11C and cloudy skies are forecast in south-west England.

Met Office meteorologist Luke Miall said "For the start of the New Year's Eve celebrations, most of the country will be dry."

Vincent Wood31 December 2019 08:30

Hong Kong activists continue action alongside celebrations

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters have staged New Year's Eve rallies around the city urging people not to give up the fight for democracy in 2020, as police prepared to deploy more than 6,000 officers according to local media.

Activists have continued to square off against police in the semi-autonomous city state since spring, with violent clashes becoming a regular occurrence in the region.

However campaigners have pledged to continue their efforts in the coming year, climbing the nearby Lion Rock – a peak that oversees the city – to set up a neon sign that reads “free HK”.

Protesters began staging New Year's Eve rallies around the city in the afternoon, urging people not to give up the fight for greater democracy in the coming year. In return police have prepared to deploy more than 6,000 officers, according to local media.

Vincent Wood31 December 2019 08:40

Should auld lyrics be forgot...

Robbie Burns' Scots poem Auld Lang Syne is sung across the world as the clocks strike midnight - or at least, the first two lines are before the majority of people descend into a mumbling of the melody.

You can always fall back on repeating "should auld acquaintance be forgot" and hide your mouth behind a champagne flute, or alternatively try the First World War version, when soldiers considering the futility of the conflict would sing "we're here because, we're here because, we're here because, we're here".

However if you want to get through the whole thing - including the commitment to buy a round in the second verse - Clarisse Loughrey has you covered: 

Vincent Wood31 December 2019 09:07

See you in 2020, Kiribati

  A new decade has dawned – providing you are one of the roughly 6,500 people living on the Republic of Kiribati’s Christmas Island.

Not to be confused with the Australian island of the same name, the atoll and designated wildlife sanctuary is the first inhabited island to see the clocks tick on to midnight.

As the new year begins, Kiribati finds itself on the front line of the battle against climate change, facing drought and rising sea levels.

In 2020, a project funded by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Green Climate Fund and Kiribati's government brings hope of providing safe and climate-secure drinking water to the main island of Tarawa, which is home to most of the nation's 110,000 people.

Vincent Wood31 December 2019 10:00

Happy New Year Samoa (no, not you American Samoa)

If there's one thing New Year's Eve can highlight, it is some of the more bizarre ways we understand time on the planet - and nowhere is this clearer than Samoa, where you can currently travel 70km from island to island and go from 1 January 2020 to 30 December 2019.

Samoa and American Samoa are distinctly separate, neighboring islands - however, as the name suggests the latter is an overseas territory of the US.

The two were once closely aligned on time after, more than 120 years ago, Samoa made the decision to roll back their clocks by 24 hours to align more closely with US traders in California.

However in recent years Samoa has found its interests align more closely with the Pacific island nations around them like Tonga New Zealand.  As a result in 2011 the islands jumped into the future, skipping 30 December that year all together to keep in time with their neighbors - while leaving behind American Samoa, which is still aligned with US time.

Vincent Wood31 December 2019 10:15

Footage from Australian bush fire shows extent of blazes overshadowing NYE celebrations

Footage from the bush fires laying waste to parts of Western Australia have highlighted the scale of the challenge facing the nation's firefighters.

The video, released by the New South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, shows firefighters forced to shelter in their truck as the blaze drew in on them.

A number of fireworks displays in New South Wales have been cancelled - with the main display at Sydney Harbor Bridge due to go ahead.

Vincent Wood31 December 2019 10:30

New Year, New Zealand

The clocks have struck 12 in New Zealand, as well as Fiji and parts of Tonga - with fireworks spewing from Auckland's Sky Tower to mark the new year.

Vincent Wood31 December 2019 11:00

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