LONDON, (AFP) — Revellers across Europe joined Asia in ringing in the New Year with firework spectaculars Saturday but the party was soured in Africa by deadly attacks.
At world-famous landmarks like the London Eye, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, the Champs-Elysees in Paris and Red Square in Moscow, hundreds of thousands went onto the streets to bid farewell to 2010 and welcome in 2011.
They joined in the wave of New Year celebrations that started in the Pacific Ocean and spread across Oceania, Asia and the Middle East before the clocks turned midnight across Europe from Moscow to Reykjavik.
For Estonia, the New Year also marked the switch from the former Soviet state’s cherished kroon to the euro, becoming the 17th member state to adopt the European single currency.
But the party mood was spoiled in Africa.
In the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria, at least seven people died and 24 were injured in an attack on a church as worshippers left a service at around half an hour after midnight. Witnesses reported a burnt-out car outside.
And in Nigeria a bomb killed four and wounded 12 at a market inside the Abacha military barracks in Abuja, a popular spot for food and drink in the Nigerian capital on New Year’s Eve.
In Europe, the London Eye was lit up by a colourful firework salvo as an expected 250,000 people crammed the River Thames embankments to see the show.
Meanwhile at Edinburgh’s traditional Hogmanay street party, tens of thousands linked arms to sing “Auld Lang Syne” as fireworks exploded above the castle.
In Paris, an estimated 235,000 people were on the Champs-Elysees with a further 35,000 around the Eiffel Tower.
In Madrid, thousands crammed Puerta del Sol square as green lights spelt out “Feliz 2011”.
Revellers followed Spanish tradition and ate 12 grapes, one for each chime of the clock as it marked midnight, to ensure good luck in the coming year.
Nearly 700,000 people were on the freezing streets of Vienna with some taking a chartered jet to witness the palatial city celebrate from above.
A blaze of fireworks erupted over the Kremlin in Red Square, but as President Dmitry Medvedev vowed to create a “powerful, open and friendly” Russia, celebrations were marred by nearly 120 arrests during opposition rallies in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
Rio de Janeiro then joined the party with a music and fireworks spectacular on the beach as the Americas got their first taste of 2011.
In New York, workers were scrambling to plough snow out of Times Square for the famous New Year countdown, after a blizzard dumped 32 inches (80 centimetres) on the city.
As many as a million people — monitored by a high-tech police presence — were expected to mass in the square.
Earlier, Dubai stole the show on the Arabian peninsula with an unprecedented spectacle at the world’s tallest building.
The Burj Khalifa was the centre of attention with a spectacular laser, lights, fountains and fireworks show which marked the 828-metre (2,717-foot) tower’s first anniversary.
The 6,000 residents of the tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati were the first to see in the New Year, while New Zealand’s Auckland was the first to party with a major fireworks extravaganza.
Australia then rung in 2011 with a fiery waterfall plunging from Sydney’s landmark Harbour Bridge as seven tonnes of fireworks ignited in the night sky, thrilling 1.5 million people crammed on the city’s foreshore.
Party-goers began descending on Sydney harbour more than 12 hours in advance, with new arrivals turned away as early as 3:00 pm.
In Asia hundreds of thousands of people gathered to watch a glittering fireworks-and-laser display along neon-lit Hong Kong’s harbour. Dozens of boats also moored in Victoria Harbour for the intense five-minute display.
In Japan millions of people visited Shinto shrines to “purify” themselves.
Although Lunar New Year is a much bigger event in the continent, thousands braved Beijing’s cold for the countdown at an upmarket shopping centre, while an expected 7,000 people saw a kite-flying event in central Shanghai.
In Myanmar, democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, released this year after more than seven years of house arrest, called for the country’s people “to struggle together with new strengths, new force and new words in the auspicious New Year”.
Revellers in India’s 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 militant strike.
Police were on high alert for attacks in major cities in Pakistan, where New Year celebrations are traditionally quiet, private affairs.