Jittery world bids adieu to a year marred by violence
As the final hours of 2015 draw to a close, many are bidding a weary and wary adieu to a year marred by attacks
In Bangkok, police-flanked partygoers will ring in the new year at the site of a deadly bombing that took place just months ago. In Paris, residents recovering from their city’s own deadly attacks will enjoy scaled-back celebrations. And in Belgium’s capital, authorities anxious after thwarting what they say was a holiday terror plot have canceled festivities altogether.
As the final hours of 2015 draw to a close, many are bidding a weary and wary adieu to a year marred by attacks that left nations reeling and nerves rattled. Still, most places are forging ahead with their celebrations as many refuse to let jitters ruin the joy of the holiday.
“We still have this fear but we need to continue to live,” said Parisian Myriam Oukik. “We will celebrate.”
A look at how people around the world are planning to do exactly that:
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
In the megacity of Dubai, three separate firework displays are set to wow spectators. The show starts from the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 828 meters (905 yards). Already, organizers say the tower has been fitted with 400,000 LED lights and 1.6 tons of fireworks will be used in the display.
From there, fireworks also will light up the sky around the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab and later down near the Dubai Marina. Fireworks also will be on display in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the country of seven emirates.
The fireworks will end a year of challenges for the United Arab Emirates, which saw global oil prices drop below $40 a barrel and dozens of its soldiers killed in the ongoing Saudi-led war against Shiite militias in Yemen. Meanwhile, the Mideast as a whole still reels from the onslaught of ISIS.
The French are still recovering from the Nov. 13 attacks that left 130 people dead in Paris, and authorities are preparing for a possible worst-case scenario on New Year’s Eve. About 60,000 police and troops will be deployed across the country on Thursday.
“The same troops who used to be in Mali, Chad, French Guyana or the Central African Republic are now ensuring the protection of French people,” said Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Paris has canceled its usual fireworks display and will instead display a 5-minute video performance at the Arc de Triomphe just before midnight, relayed on screens along the Champs Elysée.
In previous years, more than 600,000 French and foreign visitors gathered on the famous avenue for New Year’s Eve. This year, it will be closed to vehicles for just one hour instead of the usual three.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said the “noble and decent” show will be aimed at “sending the world the message that Paris is standing, proud of its lifestyle and living together.”
An official New Year’s Eve celebration is planned near Beijing’s Forbidden City with performances and fireworks, and one of China’s most popular TV stations will broadcast a gala from the National Stadium, otherwise known as the iconic Bird’s Nest.
For security reasons, Shanghai is closing subways near the scenic waterfront Bund because of a stampede last New Year’s Eve that killed 36 people and blemished the image of China’s most prosperous and modern metropolis.
Beijing’s shopping and bar areas are under a holiday security alert that started before Christmas and has resulted in armed police standing guard at popular commercial areas. Police commonly issue such alerts during holiday periods to ensure safety.
Indonesia is on high alert after authorities said last week that they had foiled a plot by militants to attack government officials, foreigners and others in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
About 150,000 police officers and soldiers have been deployed to safeguard churches, airports and other public places.
National Police spokesman Maj. Gen. Anton Charliyan said security is focused on anticipating attacks in vulnerable regions including the capital, Jakarta, the tourist resort of Bali and restive West Papua, where President Joko Widodo is celebrating the New Year.
More than 9,000 police are deployed in Bali, the site of Indonesia’s deadliest terror attack, which killed 202 people in 2002.
Hotels and restaurants in and around New Delhi have been advertising grand party plans with live bands, dancing and plenty of drinks.
With security being a concern, police and anti-terror squads on Tuesday conducted mock terror-attack drills at a crowded shopping mall and food court. Witnesses, however, were unimpressed. Mona Arthur, a Delhi journalist who was in the mall at the time, dubbed the exercise a “mockery of a mock drill.”
She and a friend were shopping when two police officers ran past them. Then a security official said two terrorists had entered the mall.
“The whole thing was comical,” said Arthur, who was irritated that no information was given to shoppers on where to go or what to do.
Authorities in Belgium’s capital canceled planned New Year’s Eve fireworks amid fears of a terrorist attack.
The decision came one day after authorities arrested two men in connection with an alleged plot to unleash holiday season attacks against police, soldiers and popular locations in Brussels.
Mayor Yvan Mayeur said it would be impossible to screen the thousands of revelers who would otherwise be gathering in Brussels to ring in the new year.
Around 1 million people are expected to converge on New York City’s Times Square for the annual celebration. The party begins with musical acts, including Luke Bryan, Charlie Puth, Demi Lovato and Carrie Underwood, and ends with fireworks and the descent of a glittering crystal ball from a rooftop flagpole.
This year’s festivities will also be attended by nearly 6,000 New York City police officers, including members of a new specialized counterterrorism unit.
People usually begin filling the square and adjoining blocks before sundown for the televised spectacle. Everyone arriving gets screened for weapons with a metal-detecting wand.