Revelers worldwide rang in the new year with massive celebrations Thursday, even as the world reels from the global economic crisis, and a tragedy in Thailand cast a shadow on the dawn of 2009.
In New York City, nearly a million people braved cold winds at Times Square to watch a large crystal ball drop. At the stroke of midnight, confetti fell and balloons lifted into the air. In many cities, from London to Paris, Hong Kong and Sydney, large crowds watched as huge firework displays lit up the sky. Celebrations in other parts of the world were more subdued.
In Thailand, at least 59 people were killed and more than 200 others injured in a New Year's Eve nightclub fire in Bangkok.The French News Agency (AFP) reports that a 25-year-old Italian man was killed by a stray bullet in Naples while he and his mother watched celebrations from their balcony.
In the United States, President George Bush said in a statement it is an exciting time as the nation prepares for a peaceful transfer of power with the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on January 20th.
In Rome, Pope Benedict called for greater sobriety and solidarity in 2009, as the world struggles with economic and social problems.
The Associated Press reports that Malaysia, mindful of its shaky economy, opted not to sponsor celebrations at all.
Indian authorities boosted security around the financial capital, Mumbai, following November's terrorist attacks that left more than 170 people dead.
Festivities were muted in China, which rings in the Lunar New Year later in January.