More than 850,000 revelers flocked to the streets around Taipei City Hall last night for the countdown party and the annual Taipei 101 fireworks show, crowding Xinyi District (信義) in the nation’s capital in a festive atmosphere celebrating the arrival of the New Year.
The six-hour extravaganza featured dazzling displays of light and music, with Taipei Zoo’s panda cub, six-month-old Yuan Zai (圓仔), the theme of the event.
Free Yuan Zai masks and cheering sticks provided by the city government attracted long lines from noon in front of city hall.
The 218-second fireworks show at Taipei 101 was to be the highlight of the event.
Taipei 101 celebrates its 10th anniversary later this year, and chose gold and purple as the main colors for the fireworks show.
A display of 24,000 fireworks, which cost NT$30 million (US$1 million), was to be launched from the top, middle and bottom of the building featuring various designs of firework.
The fireworks were to be ignited by a laser beam fired by a 4m sculpture of comic book superhero Spider-Man in front of Taipei City Hall.
The Western-style fireworks show was to be paired with Aboriginal music from the Paiwan people to inject some Taiwanese spirit into the show.
A series of performances by top pop stars, including Paulien Lan (藍心湄), Jeannie Hsieh (謝金燕) and S.H.E, were to fuel the festive atmosphere and the party was to climax when Japanese star Masaharu Fukuyama was to interact with the crowds via a live link with Japan’s NHK TV station.
All of Taipei’s MRT lines were to run non-stop until today to cope with the large crowds of revelers expected to pack the area surrounding Taipei 101.
Taipei Rapid Transit Corp general manager Tan Gwa-guang (譚國光) said that with the launch of the Xinyi Line this year, which includes a stop at Taipei 101, most of the crowd should have left by about 3am, 40 minutes earlier than in previous years.
As of 9pm, passenger numbers on Taipei’s MRT reached 2 million, up 520,000 from the same time last year.
In addition to the tight traffic controls, the Taipei City Government’s Department of Transportation also dispatched 20 police bikes to major intersections and provided emergency services for the first time, offering rides to people with an emergency, such as finding lost children.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was due to join Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) on stage at about 11:40pm as the city began the countdown to the New Year.
The city’s Department of Environmental Protection sent more than 1,000 staff and volunteers to collect garbage at the event.
There are 264 trash cans in the area, commissioner Wu Sheng-chung (吳盛忠) said.
Elsewhere in Taiwan, various countdown parties and pop concerts were also hosted by local governments to welcome the New Year.
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