Fireworks light up Sydney as Asia takes first step into 2018

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A rainbow firework waterfall from Sydney Harbour Bridge celebrating Australia’s legalization of same-sex marriage marked a spectacular start to 2018 as Asia ushered in the new year.

The multicoloured display was the finale for 1.6 million people gathered around Sydney harbour to see a 12-minute firework show that organizers said was the largest ever mounted in Sydney.

Eight tons of 100,000 individual fireworks worth 7 million Australian dollars (5.5 million US dollars) blasted off around the harbour.

The event was beamed live to the rest of the world.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the rainbow-coloured firework waterfall from the bridge marked the December vote to legalize gay marriage, as well as the 40th Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Security was tight, with some police being issued Colt M4 rifles in case of terrorist attacks.

No terrorist incidents were reported, though there was a scare when thousands of people had to be evacuated from a beach north of Sydney after a barge loaded with fireworks caught fire.

Although its New Year’s celebration garnered more attention, Australia’s was not the first.

Before Sydney had its big moment, New Zealanders got to see a five-minute fireworks show from Sky Tower in Auckland.

The highest was expected to reach 280 metres into the sky.

However, the very first celebrations were on the Pacific nations of Samoa, Tonga and Kiribati. People there celebrated the new year with traditional juggling and dancing.

Midnight passed in Samoa at 1000 GMT Sunday.

It has only been among the first to celebrate since 2011, when officials decided to move the country from the eastern side of the international date line to the western side, switching it from the last nation to celebrate New Year’s to the first.

With the start of the Year of the Dog still six weeks away, China took a more low-key approach to the arrival of 2018.

Large cities saw many people gather to celebrate the new year, and hotels offer New Year’s Eve parties to Western guests, but there were no official firework displays to mark what is nevertheless still a public holiday.

As 2018 loomed in Europe, leaders sought to set the best tone they could for the year ahead.

In her New Year’s address, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Germany’s citizens to show solidarity and respect when engaging in political discourse with each other.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May promised to deliver a “successful” exit from the European Union, strengthen Britain’s economy and build a “fairer society for everyone” in her New Year’s message.

For his part, Russia’s long-time leader Vladimir Putin – who has rarely been out of international headlines as Russia exerts its influence abroad – called for greater understanding between generations in the year ahead.

credit: NAN

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