Happy New Year: World rings in 2019 in grand style

Fireworks lit up the sky in Rio De Janeiro during the New Year celebrations. Photo: AFP

Sydney: Sydney and Hong Kong put on stunning fireworks displays to welcome the New Year, among the first in a wave of celebrations for billions around the world.

Australia's largest city organised its biggest-ever fireworks display and used new effects to light up the skyline for 12 minutes. More than 1.5 million spectators packed the harbour front and parks to enjoy the spectacle.

To mark the international year of indigenous languages in 2019, the harbour also hosted a ceremony celebrating Aboriginal heritage that included animations projected onto the bridge's pylons.

In Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of revellers packed the streets on both sides of Victoria Harbour for a spectacular 10-minute show that used USD 1.8 million worth of fireworks.

India joins in

The southern Indian state of Kerala too rung in the New Year in style with special celebrations held to mark the occasion. Thousands of people turned up at the Fort Kochi beach in Ernakulam where a gigantic Pappanji (Santa Claus) was set on fire at the stroke of midnight.

New Year Celebrations in Kochi

The capital city of Thiruvananthapuram was not to be left behind and the favourite beach destinations turned into extended party grounds.

Revellers at Kovalam beach in Thiruvananthapuram.

In Bengaluru, thousands of revellers, including women and teens heralded the New Year in grand style, dancing, greeting each other and partying hard well past midnight. The rest of India too donned the party hat on the special day.

New Year after Tsunami

In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, more than 500 couples tied the knot in a free mass wedding organised by the government. Fireworks shows were cancelled out of respect for tsunami victims.

New Year's Eve celebrations were also called off in nearby Banten province, where the disaster struck on December 22 killing more than 400 people.

In Japan, locals flocked to temples to ring in 2019, as US boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather came out of retirement to beat Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in a multi-million-dollar "exhibition" bout outside Tokyo.

People celebrate New Year's Eve in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York. Photo: Reuters

A strong police presence has become a key element of the festivities, to protect crowds that could be targeted in terror and vehicle attacks.

In Russia's Moscow, concerts and light shows were held across the city's parks and more than 1,000 ice rinks were opened for merrymakers.

But a tower block gas explosion that killed at least four people and left dozens more missing has cast a shadow over New Year's celebrations -- the biggest holiday of the year in Russia.

In Paris, a fireworks display and sound and light show under the theme 'fraternity' was held on the Champs-Elysees despite plans for further 'yellow vest' anti-government protests at the famed avenue.

French President Emmanuel Macron in a televised address shortly before the new year, acknowledged that the French government had to do better.

In Berlin, a popular German tradition of setting off fireworks to mark the occasion has been banned in some other cities over safety concerns.

Revellers in Dubai flocked to see fireworks at the world's tallest tower, Burj Khalifa, while another United Arab Emirates city - Ras al-Khaimah.

Looking forward

As the world parties, many will also look forward to 2019 and wonder whether the turmoil witnessed during the previous year will spill over into the next.

The political wrangling in Westminster over Brexit was one of the key stories of this year, with a resolution yet to be reached ahead of the scheduled March 29 departure.

US President Donald Trump dominated headlines in 2018. He ramped up his trade war with China, quit the Iran nuclear deal, moved the US embassy to Jerusalem and met his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un for a summit, the results of which have divided commentators.

North Korea's commitment to denuclearisation will remain a major political and security issue into next year, as will Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's reassertion of control after Trump's shock military withdrawal announcement.

The war in Yemen, which started in 2014 and has already killed about 10,000 people and left some 20 million at risk of starvation, could take a crucial turn after a ceasefire went into effect in mid-December.

Numerous countries go to the polls in 2019, with key elections in India, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, Argentina and Australia.

Major sporting events on the calendar include the cricket World Cup in England, the Rugby World Cup in Japan and the athletics World Championships in Qatar.

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