New Year’s Eve celebrations rolled their way around the world before the UK welcomed 2018 with a massive 12-minute fireworks display over the London Eye.
Thousands also marked Hogmanay in Edinburgh, braving warnings of stormy weather.
Samoa, a tiny pacific island, welcomed the new year at 10am GMT, followed by New Zealand an hour later.
In Australia, 2018 arrived at 1pm GMT with as many as one million people watching Sydney harbour’s world famous fireworks.
North Korea’s Pyongyang display outshone that of Japan half an hour earlier. But both were dwarfed by a 10-minute extravaganza on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour.
, prompting thousands to complain they could not send messages to friends and family.
Dubai shunned the more conventional fireworks display in favour of a colourful light show that illuminated the side of the iconic Burj Khalifa skyscraper.
Welcome to The Independent‘s live blog as New Year‘s Eve 2017 celebrations get under way across the world.
Clock strikes midnight in New Zealand New Zealand has welcomed in 2018. Half a tonne of fireworks were set off from Auckland’s Sky Tower as the clock struck midnight at 11am GMT. Preparations for the display reportedly began six months ago to guarantee the coordination of the 3,000 fireworks.
As New Zealand welcomes in 2018, millions of people around the world are kicking off their New Year‘s Eve celebrations and starting the countdown to midnight.
While the fireworks lighting up Auckland‘s skies will be the first images of 2018 that many of us will see, the Pacific island nations of Samoa and Kiribati were the first to ring in the new year an hour earlier at 10am GMT. The remote countries waved goodbye to 2017 a full 25 hours before the new year will begin in American Samoa, an incorporated US territory and the last populated place to usher in 2018. Despite the difference in time zones, American Samoa lies just 100 miles east of Samoa and the two are part of the same archipelago.
There will be fewer police in London for tonight‘s New Year’s Eve celebrations compared to previous years, despite four serious terror attacks in the capital during 2017.
But a larger number of armed police will be deployed, the Metropolitan Police said.
More than 3,000 armed officers are expected to either patrol streets or operate undercover, although Scotland Yard said there was no “specific threat” to the public.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Edinburgh‘s Hogmanay celebrations tonight, with organisers saying the event – one of the world‘s biggest street parties – will be unaffected by the arrival of Storm Dylan earlier today.
Gusts of up to 80mph were forecast to batter parts of Scotland in the first half of 31 December, but warnings are not currently in force for Sunday evening and night.
Edinburgh‘s celebrations will feature kve music, DJs, street entertainment and fireworks displays from Edinburgh Castle, as well as street performers, dancers, acrobats and fire-eaters.
Rag‘n‘Bone Man will headline the Concert in the Gardens main stage, while those performing on the three Street Party stages include The Human League, Sacred Paws, Treacherous Orchestra and Huey Morgan.
Police in London will be employing vehicle barriers at tonight‘s New Year‘s Eve celebrations. Terrorists have used vehicles to mow down pedestrians in several attacks across the world this year, including twice in the capital in London Bridge and Westminster.
Scotland Yard will also also have than in previous years, although there will be fewer patrols.
Australia celebrates new year The countdown is over in Sydney, where 2018 has arrived. As many as a million people were expected to watch the world famous fireworks display around the city‘s harbour. The huge fireworks display included a rainbow waterfall cascade of lights and colour flowing off the harbour‘s bridge to celebrate recently passed legislation legalising gay marriage in Australia. Police in the city tightened security measures ahead of the festivities, including implementing road blocks. Australia is split into five time zones during its summer, with Western Australia the last region to ring in the new year at 3.15pm GMT. New Year‘s Eve is the busiest night of the year for the UK‘s emergency services, with alcohol-fueled celebrations leading to a surge in 999 calls. London Ambulance Service (LAS) said it took 7,000 emergency calls on 31 December last year, 2,000 more than a typical day. Extra control room staff, ambulance crews, and support workers have been drafted in to cope with the increase in demand tonight.
LAS has urged Londoners to take care of their friends and only call 999 for genuine emergencies.
Pauline Cranmer, deputy director of operations, said: “A lot of the increase in demand is from party goers who drink so much they have become ill or injured.
“We normally see an increase in demand around 9pm on New Year’s Eve reaching a peak between 1am and 4am on New Year’s Day. We want Londoners to have a great time this New Year but not get so drunk they need our help.
“Too often our ambulance crews can spend much of their night caring for people who are vomiting, violent or unconscious after a night out drinking, leaving our staff unable to respond to other emergencies. Nobody wants to end up in A&E vomiting, injured or unconscious, so please take care of yourselves and your friends.”
Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today both issued New Year‘s Eve messages, as is tradition for party leaders. Ms May said 2018 would bring “renewed confidence and pride” as she sought to heal Brexit divisions and draw a line under a tumultuous 12 months.
The Prime Minister to hail the “good progress” made in , but she also made clear that the EU withdrawal was “not the limit of our ambitions”.
After 12 months marred by division over Europe, terror attacks in London and Manchester, cabinet resignations and a calamitous general election result, Ms May acknowledged that “any year brings its challenges”.
Meanwhile, declared Labour “a government in waiting” after the party increased its share of Westminster seats in May‘s general election.
He said the UK was being “held back by a self-serving elite who look after themselves and their friends”.
But the Labour leader said his party was “staking out the new centre ground in British politics” and that “the old political consensus was finished”.
Rail strikes are causing disrupting to New Year’s Eve rail services, with passengers facing widespread delays and cancellations.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union on South Western Railway (SWR) and CrossCountry have .
The union said members at both companies were solidly supporting the industrial action.
The SWR strike is expected to impact services in and out of London’s station, which is one of the capital’s busiest hubs and is used by many of the thousands of spectators who attend the fireworks display at the nearby London Eye.
SWR warned passengers to expect reduced services and said the trains that run “are likely to be exceptionally busy”.
RMT general secretary Mike Cash said members were striking over “fundamental issues of public safety, security and access”.
He added: “No staff on trains, combined with no staff on the stations, will be a toxic mix for passengers at the locations we have identified which will increasingly become crime hot spots and no-go areas for vulnerable passengers, while drivers will also be alone and exposed.”
No CrossCountry trains are running on routes including Edinburgh to Glasgow and Cambridge to Stansted Airport, with services limited on other lines.
Freezing temperatures will usher in a cold start to the new year in parts of the US, as record lows hit the Midwest and put a damper on New Year’s Eve celebrations.
In New York‘s , temperatures are expected to hover around -12C, but celebrations will go ahead as planned. Hundreds of thousands of people are making the annual pilgrimage to watch an annual ball drop that marks midnight (5am GMT.)
They have been advised to wrap up warm, with the wind chill factor tipped to make temperatures feel more like make it feel like -18C, according to the National Weather Service.
But elsewhere in the US, Arctic temperatures are causing celebrations to falter.
In Omaha, Nebraska, temperatures are expected to dip to -22C on New Year’s Eve, with organisers postponing a planned fireworks display.
Skipping the fireworks and parties in favour of your sofa and telly? Here are our are New Year‘s Eve TV picks. Featuring, of course, this man:
Las Vegas is preparing for its first New Year‘s Eve since the Mandalay Bay shooting on 1 October, when Stephen Paddock shot more than 50 people dead and wounded hundreds of others.
Security will be tighter than ever before, encompassing federal intelligence teams, helicopters, and rooftop snipers. More than 5,000 police officers will also be posted on the city‘s strip, where 330,000 visitors are expected.
The massacre has also prompted authorities in other US cities to reconsider preparations.
Japan rings in new year The clock has struck midnight in Japan. Many Japanese celebrated the arrival of the Year of the Dog in the traditional way of praying for peace and good fortune at neighborhood Shinto shrines, and eating New Year‘s food such as noodles, shrimp and sweet black beans.
Barbecued beef and octopus dumpling stalls were out at Tokyo‘s Zojoji Temple, where people take turns striking the giant bell 108 times at midnight, an annual practice repeated at other Buddhist temples throughout Japan. After the new year countdown, many people dressed up as foxes to parade from Shozoku Shrine to nearby Oji Inari Shrine in Tokyo.
North Korea‘s nuclear and missile programs cast a shadow over Japan‘s hopes for peace in 2018, said 33-year-old cab driver Masaru Eguchi, who was ready to be busy all night shuttling shrine visitors.
“The world situation has grown so complex,” Mr Eguchi told the Associated Press, adding that he also worried about possible terrorism targeting Japan. “I feel this very abstracted sense of uncertainty, although I really have no idea what might happen.” North Korea sees in new year
At half past the hour, the isolationist nation celebrated the beginning of 2018. The North created its own time zone in 2015, breaking away from Japan and South Korea. At the time, state news agency KCNA said “wicked Japanese imperialists” had “deprived Korea of its standard time” when it changed the clocks during occupation. The Korean peninsula used to be 8.5 hours ahead of GMT until Japan colonised it in 1910. Some photographs of the celebrations in Pyongyang: China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore welcome 2018 Hong Kong hosted a garish display accompanied by perky music across Victoria Harbour, which is known for its colorful light shows. Hong Kong‘s extravagant display lasted at least ten minutes. The fireworks were accompanied by a raucous version of Auld Lang Syne. Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam celebrate new year Bangkok marked midnight with an extravagant fireworks display after ban on pyrotechnics was temporarily lifted by the Thai junta earlier this week. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issued an order permitting fireworks between 11pm and 1am to “allow celebrations of the new year, which will promote tourism”. The country‘s National Council for Peace and Order banned fireworks in June, with breaches punishable with jail terms of up to three years.
The last places on Earth to greet the new year will be US islands such as Baker Island and Howland Island, where 2018 will arrive at noon GMT on 1 January.