Sydney counts down to midnight


Sydney has welcomed 2019 in spectacular style with a huge fireworks display from the world-famous harbour.

The fireworks showed over the iconic harbour bridge and CBD to a worldwide audience of millions as the city and the rest of Australia partied into 2019.

The show lasted 12 minutes – and for the first time the lights spanned the entire bridge, giving a “wave effect” as the fireworks shot upwards over the bridge and into the sky.

Thunderstorms lashed the city and drenched New Year’s Eve crowds, but the weather cleared enough for the fireworks to light up the Harbour.

Sydney’s skies saw the first of two huge fireworks displays at 9pm – three hours before the main event, which will be watched by millions around the world.

Popular vantage points closed off early as hundreds of thousands of revellers count down to the city’s New Year’s Eve party.

Rain fell over the harbour, with even heavier falls elsewhere over the metropolitan area. A huge shower began just after 7pm, forcing many people diving under blankets to shield themselves from the rain.

The storms brought 8mm of rain and dozens of lightening strikes, AAP reported, and caused the cancellation of the 8pm aerial flyover display. The night’s two firework shows are still scheduled for 9pm and midnight.

The severe thunderstorm warning has now been lifted.

Charlie Pickering told those watching ABC’s New Year’s Eve coverage: “The weather hasn’t been great, there was heavy rain but it has cleared and we are going to try to go ahead with everything we have planned for the concert, and we have a lot planned.”

Few in the coveted spots around the harbour were prepared to give up their positions though. it eased about an hour later, but then returned – although forecasters hope the worst of it will be gone by midnight.

The heavy rain had threatened to spoil the iconic event, but the first round of fireworks have shown the Sydney show will go on.

“It’s hit and miss where the thunderstorms are exactly going to go, but there may be a risk it will affect parts of Sydney Harbour later tonight,” a spokeswoman for BOM told The Daily Telegraph earlier on Monday.

“We are seeing a few thunderstorms in the Sydney basin and as we go into the evening chances are we will see a thunderstorm.”

The BOM said the thunderstorms will most likely affect suburbs in Sydney’s west, although it may hit parts of the coast and the Harbour, where more than one million people are expected to line the harbour foreshore.

They have been camping out for hours in steamy conditions with temperatures higher than 30C today.

NSW Police have assured revellers that while the terror alert remains at probable, there is no specific threat.

“We put obstacles between those large crowds and vehicles to ensure people can get in and out safely and enjoy their night in safety,” Acting Deputy Commissioner Mark Walton told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

NSW Ambulance Chief Superintendent Evan Clark urged parents to be aware of their children’s activities after a spike in underage drinking at last year’s festivities.

This year there’s been a spike in assaults on paramedics with 449 reported compared to 313 last year, he told reporters.

Meanwhile, the city’s lord mayor has taken a shot at the state government for charging people to watch the famous fireworks from some harbourside locations. “All the city-owned sites are free and any of those that are ticketed are ticketed by Property NSW or the Royal Botanic Gardens,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore told reporters on Monday.

“I frankly think it’s outrageous they are trying to make money out of something we are putting on to bring the community together harmoniously.”

Almost 20 government-owned sites are ticketed with the Botanic Gardens, for example, charging $335 for its Harbour Hoopla event.

Property NSW hit back saying only one of the venues it manages – Hickson Road Reserve – requires paid entry and the ticket price pays for live music and security.

Comment was also sought from the Botanic Gardens.

Dedicated revellers arrived early on Monday to set up picnic blankets at popular spots including the ends of the bridge, the Opera House and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

Jeroen van Druten and his wife Miranda – holidaying in Australia from the Netherlands – have watched Sydney’s fireworks on television for years. By 11am they had parked themselves under the bridge at the Rocks with a bag of supplies as temperatures climbed toward 30C.

“You hear from everyone it’s very busy, crowded, so to get a good spot you have to be early,” Mr van Druten told AAP.

“It was on our bucket list.”

This year’s $5.78 million Sydney NYE show will comprise 8.5 tonnes of fireworks, more than 100,000 individual pyrotechnic effects and 35,000 shooting comets. The theme is the Pulse of Sydney with the display featuring gold, silver and purple pyrotechnics.

The soundtrack will feature hits from Australian and international artists reaching a crescendo after midnight with (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman made famous by Aretha Franklin who died in August.

Australia’s iconic landscapes will also be celebrated with an animation inspired by the rock anthem Great Southern Land beamed onto the harbour bridge’s pylons at 11pm before the main 12-minute firework display lights up the city’s skies at midnight.

The visual displays will run all night spanning the entire bridge for the first time with more than one billion people globally expected to watch on television.

Meanwhile, in Melbourne people began making their way into the city from 4pm as families settled in to watch the 9.30pm display.

Fireworks were launched from 22 city rooftops, while celebrations will also roll out from Footscray Park to the Mornington Peninsula.

By 9pm 3000 revellers were soaking in music from around the world, with K Pop dance group KM United wowed crowds, reported The Herald Sun.

More than 10,000 people are expected to fill Federation Square by 12am.

New Year’s Eve revellers across South Australia have been warned police are taking a zero tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour.

Police will focus heavily on alcohol-related offences including drink driving, while the ambulance service has called on people to respect its officers as they try to protect the community.

As in previous years, Adelaide CBD and seaside Glenelg have been declared public precincts where police have extra powers to search and ban people from the area. Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval said members of the public needed to take responsibility for their actions by drinking sensibly, not driving under the influence and looking out for friends and family.

“We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable night and we will not hesitate to stamp out any anti-social behaviour,” he said.

More than 30,000 people are expected to gather at Elder Park in the centre of the city for the main New Year’s Eve celebrations with the numbers to bolstered by crowds leaving the Big Bash League match at Adelaide Oval.

A similarly large crowd is expected at Glenelg.

Crowds are building along the Brisbane River in anticipation of the skies coming alive as the city farewells 2018 in near-perfect summer conditions.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to cram into prime viewing locations across Brisbane to welcome 2019 on New Year’s Eve, with fireworks to be launched from four river locations.

The biggest party will be at South Bank, where people began staking out positions with deck chairs early on Monday.

Organisers expect more than 85,000 people to visit the alcohol-free zone to watch the pyrotechnics, which will be fired from five river barges between Victoria and Goodwill bridges.

Fireworks shows will also be launched at the Eagle St Pier, Portside Wharf and Howard Smith Wharves.

It will be the biggest NYE spectacular Brisbane has seen, with 45,000 individual effects to be fired.

Two displays are planned, one at 8.30pm and another at midnight. Brisbane NYE commander Chief Superintendent Cameron Harsley said Queenslanders enjoyed celebrating the new year and there would be extra police rostered to keep them safe.

“NYE is a great night, a time to celebrate with family and friends but poor decisions can have dire and lifelong consequences,” he said.

Public transport is free from 8pm through to 5.30am on Tuesday. Fireworks will also feature as the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast ring in the new year.

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