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World: New Year's Celebrations Dampened Amid Mourning For Tsunamis Victims


1 January 2005 -- A world grieving for the nearly 150,000 dead in Asia's tsunami catastrophe marked a somber passage to the New Year, with traditionally exuberant celebrations muted by mourning and remembrance candles often replacing fireworks.

New Yorkers ushered in 2005 with wild cheers, music, and confetti, but moments of silence interrupted celebrations.

Twelve Americans were among those killed, and 600 others are missing. However, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg saw the start of the new year as a time to "recognize how lucky we are."

In Europe, the New Year was more somber than usual. Organizers of the celebrations in the Swedish capital Stockholm cancelled the traditional fireworks show and revised the music program, replacing festive music and songs with more solemn ones.

Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, fending off criticism his cabinet acted too slowly to help Swedes caught by the Asian tsunamis, called for national solidarity.
"Generally the 31st is a day that people celebrate, go to dinner dances, and many [parties], and we really celebrate. But this year it is not the time to celebrate because of this catastrophe that we are experiencing today. And it is very very sad day for all Sri Lankans."


"I see that you all here tonight stand so close to each other. There are many of us, we are strong and we can help each other. Let our promise for 2005 be following -- we will be fellow beings, in this word's best meaning," Persson said.

At Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, a large street party became a fund-raiser for tsunamis victims. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder appealed for Germans to donate money they usually lavish on pyrotechnics.

In Paris, the Champs-Elysees was draped in black crepe.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on Russians to remember what he called a "dramatic" year. Russia saw a sharp rise in terrorist attacks in 2004, most notably the Beslan hostage siege, which ended with the deaths of more than 330 people, many of them children.

The year 2005 began in Australia with a minute of silence in Sydney before the city's annual fireworks display.

Many Asians were too busy counting the dead, feeding survivors, and combating disease to even think about partying.

In Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, the usual boisterous calling in of New Year's was muted. Throughout temples, churches, and mosques on the island people said prayers for the victims and the survivors. Suresh Perera is a resident from Colombo.

"Generally the 31st is a day that people celebrate, go to dinner dances, and many [parties], and we really celebrate. But this year it is not the time to celebrate because of this catastrophe that we are experiencing today. And it is very very sad day for all Sri Lankans," Perera said.

In Indonesia, where the death toll on New Year's Eve stood at more than 80,000, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on people to pray.

Thailand, with more than 4,800 dead, canceled a countdown party in Bangkok and officials urged people to attend religious services instead.

In southern Thailand, thousands of people have attended a mourning ceremony at Phuket to start the New Year.

(compiled from wire reports)
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