New Year celebrations begin in Australia, New Zealand

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Auckland/ Sydney, Dec. 31 (ANI): The countdown for New Year celebrations has begun in Australia and New Zealand.

New Zealand has become the first country in the world to welcome the New Year in, and there were celebrations and fireworks in two of its major cities Auckland and Christchurch.

People gathered in Christchurch's central Cathedral Square to celebrate the event. It is a poignant New Year for residents of the city, who suffered losses during a powerful 7.1-magnitude quake wrecked hundreds of buildings on September 4 this year.

In Auckland, a massive fireworks display heralded in 2011 as partygoers danced and sang through the midnight hour despite some public bans on alcohol consumption.

Around the country, major music festivals such as Rhythm and Vines in Gisborne attracted sellout crowds to some regional centres, with celebrations expected to last till a new summer dawn - about five hours after midnight.

Australia is expected to celebrate the New Year in about two hours.

Across the Tasman, enthusiastic Australians are camping out at parks alongside the Sydney Harbour Bridge to win the best view of tonight's spectacular New Year's Eve fireworks show.

At least 1.5 million people are expected to line Sydney Harbour. Celebrations kick off with aerial displays by vintage aircraft and a parade of boats around the harbour.

Elsewhere in Australia, fireworks could be cancelled in Melbourne due to gathering thunderstorms - and Adelaide, where extreme heat and wind had officials concerned that sparks could ignite fires.

As the clock ticked closer to 2011 across Asia, Vietnam's capital was preparing its first-ever official New Year's Eve countdown and Taiwan planned a massive pyrotechnic display in the shape of a dragon.

This year marks the first time Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, officially celebrates the New Year with a countdown blowout, complete with a light show and foreign DJs in front of the city's elegant French colonial-style opera house, the New Zealand Herald reports.

In South Korea, up to 100,000 people are expected to come out for a bell-ringing ceremony in central Seoul, with officials and 11 ordinary citizens striking the large bronze bell hung in the Bosingak bell pavilion 33 times at midnight.

Some South Koreans go to the mountains or beaches on Saturday morning to watch the first sunrise of the New Year.

In Taipei, Taiwan, fireworks will form a spiraling dragon climbing up the city's tallest skyscraper. Some 50 dancers will beat drums in the freezing cold river in a dance to underscore how people should live with nature in harmony.

In Europe, many people will be partying simply to forget their economic woes.

Spaniards traditionally gather in their main town squares to eat 12 grapes one by one as the bell in the square marks the countdown to 2011.

In the Irish capital of Dublin, people will flock to the Christchurch Cathedral to listen as the bells chime in the New Year.

In London, thousands will witness a musical and firework display at the 135-metre high London Eye, located on the southern banks of the Thames River.

The Eye, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, lies almost opposite the Big Ben clock tower at Parliament that will chime in 2011.

In Paris, tens of thousands are expected to gather at the Champs Elysees and the area around the Eiffel Tower for dazzling light and firework displays.

And in New York City, nearly a million revellers were expected to cram into the streets of Times Square to watch the traditional midnight ball drop. (ANI)

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