New Year Around the Globe

New Year revelers around the planet will welcome 2011 in a blaze of fireworks and parties Friday, temporarily banishing the misery of extreme weather which has struck countries across the world.

Some 1.5 million people will cram Sydney's foreshore for fireworks on the Harbour Bridge, with sunshine attracting record crowds in the afternoon even as the country's northeast battled devastating floods.

In Europe, crowds will throng landmarks like London's Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower, following a big freeze that paralyzed travel and cut power and water supplies for tens of thousands.

And New York workers were scrambling to plough snow out of Times Square for the famous New Year countdown, after a blizzard dumped some 32 inches (80 centimeters) on the city and surrounding areas.

Party-goers carrying blankets and camping equipment started descending on Sydney harbor more than 12 hours before the fireworks display at 1300 GMT, while scantily-clad revelers packed popular Bondi Beach.

Extreme, 43 degrees C (109 F) heat brought the risk of wildfires near Adelaide, while thunderstorms threatened to cancel Melbourne's official fireworks celebration.

The tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati, just east of the international dateline, will be the first to welcome in 2011 at 1000 GMT. The deeply religious community of about 6,000 will mark the occasion with village church services.

In New Zealand, which has experienced a mild heat wave over the festive period, a fireworks spectacular is planned in Auckland as part of a celebration themed "Hot in the City".

Further south in Christchurch, hit by a powerful earthquake in September, officials only approved celebrations after late checks and modifications, including removing the city cathedral's crucifix in case it falls on revelers.

In Asia, about 400,000 were expected at a glittering fireworks-and-laser display along neon-lit Hong Kong's harbor, while millions of Japanese will visit Shinto shrines to "purify" themselves.

Although Lunar New Year is a much bigger event in the continent, thousands will brave Beijing's cold for the countdown at an up market shopping centre, while about 7,000 were expected at a kite-flying event in central Shanghai.

Seoul was to observe Buddhist tradition with a bell at Bosingak traditional pavilion rung 33 times by 11 civilian delegates in turn, watched by up to 100,000 revelers.

Thousands of people will jam Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake for midnight, while the "Bangkok Countdown" in a glitzy mall -- scene of major anti-government protests this year -- is the centerpiece of Thailand's celebrations.

Revelers in Indian financial and entertainment capital Mumbai -- scene of a 2008 attack that killed 166 people -- were given the go-ahead to party through the night, despite intelligence about a possible New Year militant strike.

Meanwhile 250,000 people will throng the banks of London's River Thames to hear Big Ben chime the last midnight of 2010, the traditional sound of the British New Year.

Millions of others will crowd landmarks like Rome's Colosseum and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, as well as Paris's Champs Elysees and the Puerta del Sol in Madrid.

Earlier, organizers were forced to cancel a giant January 1 snowball fight in Berlin after 8,000 signed up, while in New York this week, people wrote down and shredded bad memories of 2010 in Times Square for "Good Riddance Day".

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