Security is top priority as world welcomes in 2016

Indian tourists write in the snow as they celebrate the New Year in Gulmarg. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Indian tourists write in the snow as they celebrate the New Year in Gulmarg. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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Dubai’s New Year fireworks celebrations were thrown into disarray after a massive fire erupted in a high-rise hotel in central Dubai close to the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa.

Burning debris fell from the 1,000ft building as firefighters arrived at the scene. The cause of the blaze was last night unclear.

It erupted ahead of a major New Year’s Eve fireworks display, to be held at the Burj Khalifa.

It was not immediately clear whether there were any casualties.

Meanwhile security was tight around the world as millions of people began welcoming in 2016 with an array of spectacular firework displays and celebrations.

One of the first sizeable nations to see in the New Year was New Zealand where thousands gathered in the capital city of Auckland to count down the seconds on a huge digital clock on the Sky Tower before enjoying a barrage of firework’s choreographed to a soundtrack of Kiwi music, an extravaganza which was the biggest the city has ever seen.

But it was the tiny countries of Samoa and Kiribati which were the first in the world to usher in the New Year.

In Sydney more than a million people thronged to the harbour-side to see a firework display featuring a display including a multicoloured firework “waterfall” cascading off the Harbour Bridge and pyrotechnics in the shapes of butterflies and flowers. Fireworks were also blasted over the city’s Opera House.

Counter-terrorism specialists were on duty were among a record police presence in the city where in December 2014 a gunman took hostages in a city cafe.

Speaking before the celebrations in Melbourne, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle spoke out against the fear generated by recent terror attacks saying: “Don’t change your way of life. Don’t let events from around the world challenge the way that we live.”

However concerns about terrorism saw a number of European countries cancel or scale down the festivities.

Paris has scaled down its celebrations and cancelled its annual fireworks display on the Champs-Élysées, following the terror attacks last month which left 130 people dead. Security has been stepped up with 11,000 police, soldiers and firefighters patrolling the city.

However, people were still due to gather on the Champs-Élysées.

“The people of Paris and France need this symbolic passage into the new year. After what this city has lived through, we have to send a signal to the world,” Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris said earlier.

In Brussels all public New Year events were scrapped after the arrest of six people yesterday over an alleged terrorist plot.

Russian authorities wanted people to stay at home on New Year’s Eve and in Moscow, Red Square, the traditional gathering place for the festivities, was closed off amid security fears.