Celebrations to welcome 2019 are well under way, with the clock striking midnight in various cities around the world.
An estimated 1 million people crowded Sydney Harbour as Australia’s largest city rang in the new year with a spectacular, soul-tinged fireworks celebration.
One of the most complex displays in Australia’s history included gold, purple and silver fireworks pulsating to the tune of (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, made famous by Aretha Franklin, who died in August. The show used 8.5 tonnes of fireworks and featured more than 100,000 pyrotechnic effects.
Earlier, a thunderstorm drenched tens of thousands of people as they gathered for the traditional display, creating a show of its own with dozens of lightning strikes.
Police said they took precautions to prevent any terrorist attack, but assured revellers there was no specific threat.
In Melbourne, 14 tonnes of fireworks deployed on the ground and on roofs of 22 buildings produced special effects including flying dragons. In Brisbane, an estimated 85,000 people watched as fireworks exploded from five barges moored on the Brisbane River.
Tens of thousands gathered around Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, as fireworks exploded from the top of the 1,076ft structure.
Across the southern hemisphere nation, thousands took to beaches and streets, becoming among the first in the world to usher in 2019. Fireworks boomed and crackled above city centres and harbours.
— ANI (@ANI) December 31, 2018
After an eventful year that saw three inter-Korean summits and the easing of tensions over North Korea’s nuclear programme, South Koreans entered 2019 with hopes that the hard-won detente will expand into a stable peace.
Thousands of South Koreans filled the streets of the capital, Seoul, for a traditional bell-tolling ceremony near City Hall. Dignitaries picked to ring the old Bosingak bell at midnight included famous surgeon Lee Guk-jong, who successfully operated on a North Korean soldier who escaped to South Korea in 2017 in a hail of bullets fired by his comrades.
A “peace bell” was tolled at Imjingak, a pavilion near the border with North Korea.
Japanese usually welcome the new year with a visit to a nearby temple or shrine, but some 30,000 people at Saitama Super Arena did it with Floyd Mayweather.
The American boxing legend soundly defeated his opponent, Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa, in the first round of what was billed as three rounds of entertainment with no official record, meaning both fighters still retain their undefeated tallies.
Floyd Mayweather has just been paid $9m to do this to kick boxer who weighs 2 stone lighter than him
— Adam Catterall (@AdamCatterall) December 31, 2018
“I told Tenshin to hold your head up high,” Mayweather said of his advice after the bout. Nasukawa was floored three times in the first round, and although he kept getting up, teetering, his father in the corner threw in the towel.
While many celebrate New Year’s Eve with fireworks, hundreds of Thais travelled to Takien Temple in a suburb of Bangkok to lie inside coffins for traditional funeral rituals.
Participants believe the ceremony — symbolising death and rebirth — helps rid them of bad luck and allows them to be born again for a fresh start in the new year.
Participants held flowers and incense in their hands as monks covered them with pink sheets and chanted prayers for the dead.
“It wasn’t scary or anything. It is our belief that it will help us get rid of bad luck and bring good fortune to our life,” said Busaba Yookong, who came to the temple with her family.
Bangkok is filled with modern glitzy shopping centres and high-rise buildings, but superstitious beliefs still hold sway in many aspects of Thai society.
One year ago, I issued a red alert to the world. The dangers still exist, but I also see reasons for hope. In 2019, let us build on them and create a better future for all. Happy New Year. pic.twitter.com/S31Q09x1HE
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) December 29, 2018
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a bleak New Year’s message that called climate change an existential threat and warned that “it’s time to seize our last best chance”.
He noted growing intolerance, geo-political divisions and inequality, resulting in people “questioning a world in which a handful of people hold the same wealth as half of humanity”.
“But there are also reasons for hope,” he said. “As we begin this New Year, let’s resolve to confront threats, defend human dignity and build a better future — together.”
Snoop Dogg, Sting and Christina Aguilera will welcome 2019 in a packed Times Square along with revellers from around the world who come to see the traditional crystal ball drop.
Spectators are expected to start assembling early in the afternoon for the made-for-TV extravaganza. The celebration will take place under tight security, with partygoers checked for weapons and then herded into pens, ringed by metal barricades, where they wait for the stroke of midnight.