New Year’s Eve 2018: celebrations around the world – live

Follow all the celebrations as the clock strikes midnight and countries see out 2018 to welcome in 2019

  • Looking ahead: politics, sport and arts events to watch in 2019

Thousands waiting for New Year’s Eve fireworks were drenched as a huge downpour swept Sydney harbour, accompanied by thunder and lightning.

On Monday morning the Bureau of Meteorology had predicted the “chance of a light shower/thunderstorm” in the evening, most likely in the west of the city. Otherwise, it said, “a warm, partly cloudy night” was expected. But by mid-afternoon thunderstorm warnings for inland areas had been extended to Sydney, the Hunter and the Illawarra, and the city was hit with a succession of huge downpours from about 5pm.

The storms quickly brought 8mm of rain and dozens of lightning strikes, forcing the cancellation of the 8pm aerial flyover display.

Soaked crowds cheered as the rain briefly appeared to ease about 7.15pm local time, SBS News reported, but within minutes the drenching began again.

Eventually the rain cleared and the 9pm early fireworks went ahead on schedule. However, the fireworks in Newcastle were first delayed and ultimately cancelled because of the storm.

In Sydney, locals and tourists had arrived early on Monday to set up picnic blankets at popular spots around the harbour, including the ends of the bridge, the Opera House and Mrs Macquarie’s Chair.

his wife Miranda – holidaying in Australia from the Netherlands – said they had 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,” Van Druten told AAP. “It was on our bucket list.”

This year’s $5.78m Sydney NYE show will comprise 8.5 tonnes of fireworks, more than 100,000 individual pyrotechnic effects and 35,000 shooting comets.

Earlier on Monday the city’s lord mayor, Clover Moore, lashed out at the state government over the increased commercialisation of New Year’s Eve around the harbour, calling the increase in ticketed events “outrageous”.

Of the 51 official harbourside events on the City of Sydney’s website, 19 are ticketed, with prices as high as $335.

A number of ticketed locations – including Hickson Road reserve in The Rocks and Pirrama Park wharf at Pyrmont – were previously free.

On Monday, Moore said all the ticketed events were on land held by state government agencies.

“I frankly think that is outrageous that they are trying to make money out of something that we are putting on to bring the community together harmoniously and to celebrate the beauty of our city and our creators,” she said.



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