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New Year festivities reined in after tsunami
Updated: 2005-01-01 00:11

SYDNEY - Australia led the world in a global minute of silence, parties were canceled and trees on Paris's grand Champs Elysees were shrouded in black as Asia's devastating tsunami darkened global New Year celebrations.

Sydney, the world's first major city to start celebrations, went ahead with its annual New Year's Eve firework displays on Friday, but the estimated 1 million revelers who flocked to the harbor foreshore were urged to remember the nearly 124,000 dead.

Nations worldwide urged revelers to rein in their excesses and spare thoughts for victims and money for survivors.

The Asian disaster has cast a long shadow over global New Year celebrations, particularly in Europe. Europeans made up the majority of the more than 2,200 foreign tourists known to be dead and more than 6,000 missing.

Sweden, Norway, Finland and Germany planned to fly flags at half mast to start 2005 as a mark of respect for their many dead and missing, who had left Europe's cold, dark winter for the sunshine and golden sands of Asia.

Paris draped black mourning crepe on the trees lining the Champs Elysees to pay homage to the victims. Thousands of Parisians traditionally collect on the tree-lined boulevard in the center of the French capital on New Year's Eve.

Istanbul, with memories of a massive earthquake that rocked northwestern Turkey in 1999 and killed more than 18,000, canceled a concert and firework display in the city center.

Sydney rang in the New Year with firework displays along its postcard-perfect harbor, one early show especially for children.

Sydneysiders and a global television audience of millions were asked to observe a minute's silence in remembrance of tsunami victims before the children's display. Party-goers in Australia's Melbourne and in neighboring New Zealand similarly paused to remember.

"This gives an opportunity for mums and dads to help to explain what happened to their children," a spokesman for Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

At the stroke of midnight Sydney's Harbour Bridge exploded into a blaze of color, with multi-color flashes illuminating the city for miles around.

"You've still got to have something like this otherwise people haven't got any hope," said mother-of-two Toni Leonard.

Just hours earlier, the Australian navy ship HMAS Kanimbla steamed out of Sydney Harbour bound for Indonesia's devastated Aceh region, carrying desperately needed emergency supplies, helicopters and engineers.

Australians were also asked to dig deep for charity. A giant appeal for donations to an Oxfam tsunami relief fund flashed up in lights on the pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge next to a 20-meter model of a disco ball that was the centerpiece of the fireworks extravaganza.


Around the world, party plans were dropped or toned down. In Sri Lanka, where more than 28,500 people died, President Chandrika Kumaratunga canceled all New Year celebrations and declared a national day of mourning. The plush Hilton Colombo hotel called off an end-of-year dance.

Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra shelved a party with tennis stars, including Russian Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, and tinsel was stripped from hotel foyers.

Thailand called off outdoor celebrations in memory of its 4,500 victims and Malaysia decided against official festivities.

In Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for muted New Year celebrations and a fireworks display over the Marina Bay area was canceled. A minute's silence was to be observed just before midnight on state television and at outdoor parties.

In Hong Kong, where disgruntled residents are used to marking public holidays with anti-government protests, political parties across the spectrum decided to postpone a New Year's Day march and instead planned to raise funds for tsunami victims.

In Europe, a number of Italian cities abandoned plans for major New Year's Eve parties, deciding instead to send the money saved to charities helping the victims.

Bologna and Turin canceled parties, while Naples, Bolzano, Padova and Benevento scrapped firework displays.

Near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, where a million people typically throng on New Year's Eve, flags were being flown at half-mast. Around 1,000 Germans are missing after the disaster.

Germany urged revelers to donate some of the 100 million euros ($136 million) they would normally spend on fireworks, a call repeated across Europe.

Norwegians were urged to celebrate with moderation and media reported that Norway's richest man, billionaire Kjell Inge Rokke, had canceled his fireworks show.

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra cut Strauss's merry Radetzky March from its New Year concert.

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