Confetti is dropped on revellers at midnight during New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square in New York January 1, 2014. Gary Hershorn/Reuters
A sea of horn-tooting, funny hat-wearing revellers cheered (and some even smooched) as the famed crystal ball dropped in freezing New York City's Times Square to ring in 2014, capping a world-wide wave of celebrations that included a dazzling 30-minute fireworks show in Dubai and a deluge of confetti in London that tasted as good as it looked.
Bronx-born U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor led the 60-second countdown and pushed the button that unleashed the shimmering orb with 2,688 crystals, a role usually filled by the New York City mayor. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on his last day in office, was sitting the celebration out after 12 years on the job, while newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio took the oath of office just after midnight at his Brooklyn home.
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Kerrie McConaghy, 20, a university student visiting Times Square from Armagh, Ireland, was dancing and jumping up and down, donning a big blue top hat.
"It's unbelievable here," she said. "The lights, seeing the ball, hearing the music, all the people. It's amazing."
"TV doesn't do this justice," she said. "You have to be here to believe it."
The annual New York celebration, which this year featured performances from artists such as Miley Cyrus, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Blondie, has become part endurance sport because post-9/11 security measures force spectators into pens at least 12 hours in advance, with no food, warmth or bathrooms.
"We've got adult diapers. We're wearing them right now," said teenager Amber Woods, who came with friends from the New York City's suburbs to experience the event for the first time. They entered their corral at 10 a.m. For nourishment, they brought lollipops and popcorn. For the cold, they did a lot of jumping in place.
"Every time I say, it's the last. But then I come back," said Yasmina Merrir, a Washington, D.C., resident attending her fourth Times Square ball drop. In 2009, the cold was so bad, she got hypothermia. Her legs swelled up like balloons.
She was also fasting and not drinking anything to deal with the lack of restrooms. As for the cold, she recommends vigorous dancing for as long as you can stand on your feet.
"At a point," she said, "your brain is not working anymore."
Edible confetti in London, world record sought in Dubai
On the other side of the Atlantic, London welcomed 2014 with a mixture of futuristic fireworks and torch-lit tradition. The city's mayor said this year's explosive display came packed with peach-flavoured snow, edible banana confetti and orange-scented bubbles. The evening also included scratch-and-sniff programs, LED wristbands and fruit-flavoured sweets.
In Russia, where two suicide bombings in two days killed 34 people, eerily empty buses lumbered through the streets of Volgograd, where authorities cancelled mass events for New Year's Eve and asked residents not to set off fireworks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his New Year's Eve address to the nation, vowed that the fight against terrorists will continue "until their destruction is complete," Russian news agencies reported.
In Dubai, a Persian Gulf city known for glitz, glamour and over-the-top achievements like the world's tallest skyscraper, officials sought to break another record by creating the largest fireworks show.
The Dubai skyline was a canvas for a dazzling 30-minute show. The display capped off with six minutes of fireworks that engulfed the city's man-made, palm-shaped island, with its fronds and trunk shimmering in thousands of lights. Organizers had promised that the fireworks would form a flying falcon, a sunrise and the United Arab Emirates flag.
2 dead, 100s injured in Philippines
At least two people were killed and nearly 600 others were injured by fireworks and gunfire in New Year celebrations in the Philippines, officials said Wednesday.
About 50 hospitals nationwide reported 599 injured from Dec. 21 to Jan. 1, a 43 per cent jump from the same period last year, said Department of Health spokesman Dr. Eric Tayag.
In northern Cagayan province, a fireworks fountain display packed with firecrackers exploded and killed a 19-year-old man, while an infant boy was killed by a bullet that went through the roof of the family's house in northern Ilocos Sur province.
Doctors in nearby Ilocos Norte province said another boy is fighting for his life after he was hit in the forehead by a bullet that is still lodged in his head.
The deaths and injuries come at the end of a year where several disasters hit the Philippines, including the Nov. 8 super Typhoon Haiyan, locally called Yolanda, that left more than 6,100 dead and nearly 1,800 others missing.
"Many here are welcoming the new year after losing their mothers, fathers, siblings and children so you can imagine how it feels," said village chief Maria Rosario Bactol of Anibong community in Tacloban, the city worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan.
Tayag said he expects the number of injuries to rise as the Health Department continues its count through Sunday.
Many Filipinos, largely influenced by Chinese tradition, believe that raucous New Year's celebrations drive away evil and misfortune, and set off huge firecrackers and fire guns despite dangers and threats of arrest.
This year, there was even firecracker sold on the illegal market — Super Yolanda — which was named after the killer typhoon.
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