LONDON – Partygoers swarmed through London to celebrate the New Year Saturday, undaunted by a subway strike, while a rash of car burnings hit France despite police efforts to curb the traditional year-end vandalism.
In parts of Asia, the threat of terrorism loomed large, and a bombing at a market in Indonesia killed eight people and wounded 45.
But celebrations worldwide were generally jubilant, in contrast with last year when the devastation of the Indian Ocean tsunami led many countries and individuals to cancel festivities.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands ignored light snow and sleet to cram into New York's Times Square, taking up positions hours before the famous electrified Waterford crystal ball drops during the last minute of 2005.
More than 2 million Brazilians were expected at jam Rio de Janeiro's famed Copacabana Beach for the largest fireworks extravaganza in the city's history. Officials planned to set off nearly 25 tons of fireworks.
London saw many subway workers walk out at noon, but staff not affiliated with the striking RMT union kept much of the sprawling Tube network running.
Thousands of partygoers gathered in Trafalgar Square and outside the Houses of Parliament, to hear Big Ben chime midnight. "We wanted to come because it's a once in a lifetime thing," said Carol Joyce, 43, who traveled from nothern England for the festivities and was unaffected by the strike.
Revelers lined the banks of the River Thames to watch a massive fireworks display set against the backdrop of the giant, futuristic Ferris wheel, the London Eye.
Youths threw stones at firefighters and burned cars in scattered unrest in France, where police were mobilized to prevent a repeat outburst of rioting that broke out this fall.
About 25,000 French police were on alert for the holiday. Every New Year's Eve, youths set several hundred cars ablaze as festivities get out of hand.
Police were especially cautious this time because of the wave of rioting and car-torchings that broke out for three weeks starting in late October. A state of emergency imposed during the rioting is still in effect.
In a pre-dawn tally Sunday, the Interior Ministry reported 249 vehicles burned throughout the country, including 84 in the Ile-de-France region that includes Paris. Nearly 200 arrests were reported, though it wasn't clear how many were linked to the vandalism.
"The orders I have given are very strict," French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy earlier in the day. "When there are delinquent acts there will be arrests. Those guilty must be accountable for their acts."
The mood was more festive elsewhere.
Four months after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans residents prepared to ring in 2006 with fireworks and concerts.
"New Orleans is back open, so come on down and start visiting. That's the word to get out," said Brian Kern, an organizer of the festivities, which were paid for by businesses because the city's tax income was wiped out by the storm.
In Australia, revelers jostled for vantage points around Sydney's harbor to watch a spectacular fireworks show at midnight.
"You can't beat the setting," said Andrew Coomer, a 21-year-old English tourist who camped with his family outside the Sydney Opera House for 12 hours to catch the fireworks.
More than 1,700 police officers were on duty for the night and police helicopters and boats buzzed across the harbor — a huge presence aimed at preventing a repeat of racial violence that broke out in the city's southern beachside suburbs earlier this month.
A bomb thought to be the work of Islamic extremists ripped through a crowded market frequented by Christians in Palu on Indonesia's Sulawesi Island, killing eight people and wounding 45. The island has been plagued by religious violence and terrorism by radical Muslims.
In Bangladesh, 5,000 security officers searched cars and patrolled the streets of the capital to thwart possible violence in the wake of a series of bombings blamed on Islamic extremists that have killed at least 26 people.
For the millions left homeless by this year's South Asian quake, the new year was expected to begin with heavy snow and rain. Relief agencies warned that the harsh Himalayan winter could hamper aid deliveries and create conditions ripe for illnesses.
Pakistan's army and aid workers have been using helicopters, trucks and mules to get tents, clothes, food and other provisions to survivors since the Oct. 8 quake killed an estimated 87,000 people and destroyed the homes of 3.5 million others.
In Japan, police expected more than 14,000 people to climb the 12,387-foot, snowcapped Mount Fuji and other mountains before dawn to see the first sunrise of the new year.
But a new holiday pastime also has emerged among Japanese — watching professional wrestling on TV — and many rang people in the new year glued to their sets.
In the Philippines, two people were reported killed by bullets fired during celebratory gunfire and two others died after eating a popular sparkler that looks like candy. Firing guns in the air is a traditional way for Filipinos to welcome the new year.