Revellers welcome 2018 in Europe

Paris (AFP) – Countless revellers switched into party mode Sunday across Europe to ring in 2018 after Sydney and Hong Kong earlier welcomed New Year on the other side of the globe with dazzling firework displays.

In London more than 100,000 ticket-holders gazed up at a spectacular pyrotechnics display from the banks of the river Thames, before dancing to Auld Lang Syne.

Keeping with tradition, the Big Ben bell in the Houses of Parliament rang in Britain’s new year — the chimes having been turned back on especially for the celebrations as the famous clock tower is undergoing renovation and encased in scaffolding.

Other European cities were similarly awash with people despite the winter cold.

In Paris hundreds of thousands of partygoers braved a storm warning and drizzle to line the Champs-Elysees avenue before a dazzling light show and a fireworks display lit up the Arc de Triomphe.

Nearly 2,000 security forces were deployed to protect the crowd — out of some 140,000 mobilised nationwide to guard against the jihadist threat which the authorities describe as “still high”.

One reveller, who gave his name only as Stephane, insisted that a spate of recent attacks on France were “in the past.”

“Life goes on and they (jihadists) are on the retreat,” he said.

In Hong Kong, the city staged a stunning fireworks display over its famous Victoria Harbour and thousands watched as “shooting stars” were fired from the rooftops of skyscrapers during a 10-minute musical spectacular.

Three hours earlier Australia had rung in the New Year with a magnificent show of rainbow-coloured fireworks cascading from Sydney Harbour Bridge, as partygoers marked the nation’s legalisation of gay marriage amid tight security.

In Britain, despite the capital being hit by four terror attacks in 2017, Scotland Yard said it had fewer police officers on the streets than during last year’s event.

And revellers on the banks of the Thames were in a party mood as they danced to a soundtrack dominated by women to mark the centenary of women being granted the vote.

“We will have the right response of officers at the right locations,” said superintendent Nick Aldworth.

“There is no specific threat to this event,” he added.

Tens of thousands of people had been expected in Edinburgh for its Hogmanay celebrations — one of the world’s biggest street parties.

– Around the world –

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