Fri, Jan 02, 2009 - Page 2 News List

New Year's spirit not dampened by economy, weather

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The cold weather and economic downturn did little to suppress the joyful spirits of the 600,000 revelers who gathered in front of Taipei City Hall last night, as they shouted out the countdown and celebrated the arrival of the New Year watching a breathtaking Taipei 101 Fireworks Show.

The MRT systems in both Taipei and Kaohsiung were flooded with passengers eager to attend countdowns to the New Year. From 6am on Wednesday to 6am yesterday, the number of passengers passing through Taipei’s MRT stations had topped approximately 1.95 million, up by about 20,000 passengers compared with last year, Taipei Rapid Transit Corp said yesterday.

The MRT system in Kaohsiung transported about 300,000 people flocking to the New Year Party at the Dream Mall. Yesterday was the first time that the system had been operational on New Year’s Eve and it lengthened its business hours to 2am.

A New Year Concert in Taichung ended peacefully without any conflict, despite tensions caused by the county’s decision to ban the national flag from the event.

The concert was co-organized by the Taichung County Government and the Broadcasting Foundation of Fujian Province. Part of the deal involved an agreement to bar the display of the national flag, which upset members of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Taichung Chapter.

In protest, DPP members distributed more than 3,000 national flags to the audience at the concert.

No one was banned for carrying or waving the flag.

A drastic increase in mobile activity on New Year’s Eve also crashed Taiwan Mobile Corp’s (台灣大哥大) computer systems. The service was unavailable between 11:30pm to 3:30am.

While Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信) and Far Eastone Telecommunication Co (遠傳電信) suffered no interruptions, all three of the nation’s largest operators reported an increase in people sending text messages.

Temperatures nationwide dropped significantly yesterday morning. Tamsui was identified as the nation’s coldest large town, with the temperature reaching only 9.6ºC.

The cold weather is expected to continue through tomorrow.

Those braving the early morning chill in Alishan got to enjoy the sunrise, which occurred at 7:05am, but those watching in Green Island and Kenting were not so fortunate as thick clouds blocked out the sunrise along the East Coast.

Heavy traffic was reported yesterday on the national freeways, with approximately 350,000 cars on the road during the toll-free hours between 12am and 7am, 2.3 times more than average.

The heaviest traffic was within the first two hours of the New Year, with large numbers of homeward bound travelers on the road.

Cars were bumper to bumper on certain sections of the highways between Taoyuan and Jhongli (中壢), Sanying (三鶯) and Dasi (大溪) and Nangang (南港) and Pinglin (坪林).

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