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Revelers around the world usher in a new year

New Year’s revelers around the world began partying, visited places of worship and gathered with family to welcome 2006.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Londoners ignored a subway strike to welcome the New Year. Some Japanese climbed a snowcapped peak to see the first sunrise of 2006. GIs in Iraq got a year-end “American Idol” treat.

New Year’s Celebrations like these spread throughout the world Saturday and early Sunday and were generally jubilant, a contrast with last year when the devastation of the Indian Ocean tsunami led many countries and individuals to cancel festivities.

In France, youths burned hundreds of cars in a traditional year-end form of vandalism, but the country appeared to have avoided a massive resurgence of the rioting that broke out this fall.

By 4 a.m. Sunday, police counted 343 vehicles burned — just slightly more than the comparable figure from last year, 323, police said. They also arrested 266 people, but it wasn’t clear if the arrests were linked to the vandalism.

In parts of Asia, the threat of terrorism loomed large, and a bombing at a market in Indonesia killed eight people and wounded 45.

Hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq got a special show from “American Idol” singer Diana DeGarmo and other entertainers at Camp Victory in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands ignored light snow and sleet to cram into New York’s Times Square to watch the famous electrified Waterford crystal ball drop during the last minute of 2005. As confetti rained down, the crowd stretching more than 10 blocks up Broadway and the surrounding streets began a mass performance of “Auld Lang Syne.”

London saw many subway workers walk out at noon, but staff not affiliated with the striking RMT union kept much of the sprawling Tube network running.

Thousands of partygoers gathered in Trafalgar Square and outside the Houses of Parliament, to hear Big Ben chime midnight. “We wanted to come because it’s a once in a lifetime thing,” said Carol Joyce, 43, who traveled from northern England for the festivities and was unaffected by the strike.

Revelers lined the banks of the River Thames to watch a massive fireworks display set against the backdrop of the giant, futuristic Ferris wheel, the London Eye.

The mood was more festive elsewhere.

Four months after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans residents prepared to ring in 2006 with fireworks and concerts.

“New Orleans is back open, so come on down and start visiting. That’s the word to get out,” said Brian Kern, an organizer of the festivities, which were paid for by businesses because the city’s tax income was wiped out by the storm.

In Australia, revelers jostled for vantage points around Sydney’s harbor to watch a spectacular fireworks show at midnight.

“You can’t beat the setting,” said Andrew Coomer, a 21-year-old English tourist who camped with his family outside the Sydney Opera House for 12 hours to catch the fireworks.

More than 1,700 police officers were on duty for the night and police helicopters and boats buzzed across the harbor — a huge presence aimed at preventing a repeat of racial violence that broke out in the city’s southern beachside suburbs earlier this month.

Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians were jamming Rio de Janeiro’s famed Copacabana Beach for the largest fireworks extravaganza in the city’s history. Officials waere setting off 25 tons of fireworks.

A bomb thought to be the work of Islamic extremists ripped through a crowded market frequented by Christians in Palu on Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island, killing eight people and wounding 45. The island has been plagued by religious violence and terrorism by radical Muslims.

In Bangladesh, 5,000 security officers searched cars and patrolled the streets of the capital to thwart possible violence in the wake of a series of bombings blamed on Islamic extremists that have killed at least 26 people.

For the millions left homeless by this year’s South Asian quake, the new year was expected to begin with heavy snow and rain. Relief agencies warned that the harsh Himalayan winter could hamper aid deliveries and create conditions ripe for illnesses.

Pakistan’s army and aid workers have been using helicopters, trucks and mules to get tents, clothes, food and other provisions to survivors since the Oct. 8 quake killed an estimated 87,000 people and destroyed the homes of 3.5 million others.

In Japan, police said thousands of people were climbing the 12,387-foot, snowcapped Mount Fuji and other mountains before dawn to see the first sunrise of the new year.

But a new holiday pastime also has emerged among Japanese — watching professional wrestling on TV — and many rang people in the new year glued to their sets.

In the Philippines, two people were reported killed by bullets fired during celebratory gunfire and two others died after eating a popular sparkler that looks like candy. Firing guns in the air is a traditional way for Filipinos to welcome the new year.