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Sparkling Sydney kicks off global 2014 party

Sydney kicked off New Year celebrations with a dazzling fireworks display, the first in a wave of pyrotechnics to usher in 2014 from Hong Kong to world record-chasing Dubai. Seven tonnes of explosives lit up Australia's biggest city, with fireworks shooting off the Opera House for the first time in more than 10 years as part of the December 31 extravaganza, focused on the Harbour Bridge.

Dutch police arrest 100 youths after new year riot

Dutch police said Tuesday they had arrested 100 youths who pelted firefighters with bottles and fireworks in a central town notorious for its unruly New Year celebrations. The violence broke out after a group of revellers in Veen doused a car wreck in fuel and set fire to it in the street -- a New Year's tradition in the town. "We have arrested around 100 young people, men and women, mainly between the ages of 18 and 25 after they pelted firefighters trying to put out a burning car wreck," police spokesman Jeroen Steenmeyer told AFP.

Fireworks, bullets injure 260 in Philippines New Year countdown

Philippine authorities said more than 260 people had been injured by fireworks or stray bullets in the days leading up to New Year's Eve. The victims of early celebrations on Tuesday included an eight-year-old boy in the central city of Cebu who lost his right hand due to a powerful firecracker and a 40-year-old woman in Manila with an accidental gun wound.

Fireworks injure 160 as Philippines readies for New Year

More than 160 people have been injured by fireworks in the Philippines as they prepared to welcome the New Year, the government said Saturday. A 14-year-old boy who lost his right hand and an elderly man with a ruptured eyeball were among the worst injured so far, Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag said. He tweeted that a five-year-old had also lost his right index finger from using fireworks. The Asian nation of 100 million people traditionally greets the New Year by making noise in the belief it will drive bad spirits away.

Beijing firework ban if New Year turns smoggy

BEIJING, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Firework and firecracker celebrations will be banned in Beijing if serious air pollution is forecast for the upcoming Lunar New Year, a festival that features massive use of pyrotechnics. The ban will take effect if orange or red alerts for air pollution are issued during the holiday, which begins on Jan. 31, the city's office on fireworks and firecrackers said Thursday. Red is the highest in China's four-tier warning system, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

China Exclusive: Frugality campaign, smog sour Chinese fireworks sales

CHANGSHA, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- The approaching Chinese Lunar New Year festivities used to mean big business for He Jianwu, senior executive of a fireworks manufacturing plant in central China's Hunan Province. However, an ongoing frugality campaign by the Chinese government and the lingering smog that has hit most parts of eastern and northern China this month have dealt him a heavy blow.

Indian Hindus nurse bruises after cow-trampling festival

Dozens of Hindu men in western India were nursing their bruises Tuesday after being trampled by cattle as part of an annual ritual to encourage God to answer their prayers. In the centuries-old ceremony performed in the town of Garbada in Gujarat state and in other parts of the country, men lay on the ground and allowed decorated cows, considered sacred in India, to walk on them. The ceremony was carried out Monday, the day after Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights -- one of the key events on the Hindu calendar.

Blast in southern China fireworks factory kills 11, injures 17; 2 executives arrested

BEIJING, China - An explosion at a fireworks factory in southern China killed 11 workers and injured 17 others, state media and a local official said Saturday. Most of the victims were female workers who were assembling fuses for firecrackers, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It said the blast took place on Friday and reduced the factory in the city of Cenxi in the Guangxi autonomous region into rubble. A man reached at the Guangxi Work Safety Bureau said that two executives of the factory have been detained.

Diwali gold sales slump in India after tariff hike

Gold sales during India's festive season have slumped to half their usual levels this year after the government hiked import duties to record levels, traders said Friday. India is known as the world's biggest consumer of gold and sales traditionally peak around Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, which is seen as a particularly auspicious time to buy. But with only days to go before Monday's festival finale, traders at the famed Zaveri Bazaar jewellery market in the financial capital Mumbai said they had experienced a major fall in sales this year.

Toll from Vietnam firework factory blast reaches 24

Vietnamese police on Sunday raised the death toll from a blast at a fireworks factory to 24 blaming other explosives also stored at the site for the accident which also left many injured. "At least 24 people were killed -- we have identified 16 bodies," Phu Tho policeman Pham Quang Minh told AFP, raising the number of dead from 21 in Saturday's incident. Minh said more than 20 people had been injured, lower than the near-100 initially reported to have been hurt in the explosion at a military complex in northern Vietnam.
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