NEW YORK: Millions of revelers took to the streets around the world from Sydney to New York to usher in 2015 on Thursday, but celebrations turned to tragedy in China, where 35 people were killed in a stampede in central Shanghai.
As many as a million partygoers braved frigid temperatures and poured into New York’s Times Square for America’s annual New Year party that this year featured pop sensation Taylor Swift.
Merrymakers in the Big Apple braved frigid weather wearing traditional festive top hats, kissing and snapping selfies as a giant illuminated crystal ball slid down a pole, touching ground at precisely the stroke of midnight.
As Times Square erupted in cheers and confetti, the rest of the globe celebrated with spectacular fireworks displays in cities from Sydney to Moscow.
But chaos broke out in China’s financial hub as people packed the Bund district to welcome the New Year.
In addition to the dead, 42 people were injured in the crush, which happened shortly before midnight, Shanghai’s government said in a statement, adding that the incident was under investigation.
It was a tragic note on a night filled with hopes for a more peaceful year than 2014.
The optimism was demonstrated in Australia, where an estimated one million people flocked to a massive fireworks display in Sydney Harbor, defying terrorist fears days after a deadly siege.
“We are celebrating that we are a multicultural, harmonious community but we will be thinking about what happened,” Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in reference to the deadly standoff when an Iranian-born gunman took 17 hostages in a cafe.
In Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of people crowded the city’s promenades to watch an eight-minute pyrotechnic display after a year in which busy thoroughfares were paralyzed for months by pro-democracy protests.
“I think a more peaceful year would be good for everybody,” said Louis Ho, 65.
Europe’s celebrations kicked off in Moscow, where red and green fireworks lit up the sky over St. Basil’s Cathedral, bringing “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd braving sub-zero conditions.
President Vladimir Putin sent a greeting to his US counterpart Barack Obama, saying they had a mutual responsibility to ensure world peace after a year that has seen relations between Russia and the West sink to their worst point since the Cold War.
Dubai celebrated the new year with a light and sound extravaganza at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, which was lit up with different-colored panels as the clock counted down to 2015.
London was the latest major European city to welcome the New Year, its skyline illuminated by a thunderous firework display in front of over 100,000 ticket holders gathered on the banks of the River Thames.