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Sydney harbor fireworks kick off global New Year's celebrations

By Don Jacobson & Darryl Coote
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Sydney harbor fireworks kick off global New Year's celebrations
People count down to the New Year in the Shibuya district shopping street in Tokyo. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 31 (UPI) -- New Year's celebrations around the world began at the stroke of midnight in Australia, followed by Asia as the new year marched across the globe.

Sydney's world-class harbor fireworks display kicked off the global celebrations with its usual impressive display of pyrotechnics after being delayed by 15 minutes due to high winds.

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Its organizers were granted an exemption by Australian fire officials who have imposed a total ban on fires in New South Wales because of an unprecedented wave of bushfires which has ravaged the country for days.

Planned fireworks celebrations in many other parts of Australia, however, were canceled due to the ban.

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As the night progressed, Asian nations were next on the list of New Year's celebrations.

In Japan, revelers welcomed the first New Year's celebration under the Reiwa imperial era, which started when Emperor Naruhito assumed the throne in May. New Year's is considered the country's most important holiday, and people offered incense and prayers to celebrate the new year, which will include Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics.

Protests interfered with celebrations in Hong Kong, where the government canceled a fireworks display in Victoria Harbour due to security concerns amid pro-democracy demonstrations.

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Celebrations in Indonesia were dampened by heavy rains in Jakarta and threats of an active volcano near the Sunda Strait. A tsunami triggered by Anak Krakatau last year killed more than 430 people.

In South Korea, people filled the streets of Seoul for the traditional bell-tolling ceremony and to hang wishes for the new year outside Buddhist temples.

In Britain, around 100,000 people flooded the streets around London's Victora Embankment to watch as some 12,000 fireworks lit up the night's sky from the Thames River as the year ticked over.

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The New Year was ushered in by the chimes of the capital city's iconic Big Ben followed by the dramatic display of fireworks cued to music.

In Paris, France, where transport was affected by an ongoing strike, thousands were still able to congregate around the Arc de Triomphe for an elaborate show of music, lights, lasers and fireworks.

As 2019 ticked down, the final seconds of the year were projected on the famed arch and 2020 was born with fireworks erupting above.

Festivities in the United States were to include the televised crystal ball drop in Times Square in New York City at midnight.

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