New Year's Parties Axed in Asia

Happy New Year? Not this year.

Authorities around the Asian region battered by the quake-tsunami tragedy that killed some 120,000 people scaled back or canceled celebrations Friday to mark the New Year (search).

In many places people were too busy counting the dead, feeding survivors and combating the spread of disease to even think about partying.

Away from the disaster areas, parties that were going ahead were expected to be used to raise relief funds.

Click here for more information on how you can help tsunami victims.

Sydney, Australia (search), which throws its biggest party of the year each Dec. 31, said it was too late to cancel festivities that include big ticket bashes around its glittering harbor and multimillion dollar firework shows from the Harbor Bridge.

Sydney City Council spokesman Jeff Lewis said revelers would be urged to give generously to a disaster fund.

"We've got up to a million in our audience around the harbor and another four or five million Australians that will be watching on television," Lewis said. "It would only take a couple of dollars from each to raise up to A$10 million (US$7.8 million, euro5.73 million) dollars."

In Thailand (search), which on Friday announced its official death toll had soared to more than 4,500, parties were scrapped across the country.

"The Thai government has called for cooperation from government agencies and the private sector to cancel all New Year celebrations", said government spokesman Jakrapob Penkair.

A countdown party in downtown Bangkok, that was to have featured Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and glamorous tennis stars Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams, was canceled and officials urged people to attend religious services to mourn victims of the tsunami instead.

Jamnan Tiritan, organizer of a countdown party in the northern tourist city of Chiang Mai, said the event had been scrapped and replaced with a remembrance service to gather donations.

In Taiwan, the world's tallest skyscraper, Taipei 101, which was officially opened earlier Friday, was playing a key role in New Year's Eve celebrations that were scheduled to go ahead unaffected.

Up to 200,000 revelers were expected to converge on the neighborhood of the 508-meter-tall (1,679-foot-tall) building for pop music concerts, a countdown, and a massive light show and fireworks display.

Hundreds of thousands of Malaysians flocked to mosques, temples and churches Friday for special prayers nationwide to mark a somber New Year's Eve following the region's earthquake-tsunami disaster.

Government officials in the mostly Muslim country banned firework displays and canceled public concerts and celebrations as a sign of mourning for at least 66 Malaysians confirmed killed.

The Islamic sultanate of Brunei also scrapped New Year's Eve festivities and held prayers at mosques. Many Malaysian hotels, shopping malls and night clubs planned to hold a minute of silence before midnight instead of the traditional New Year countdowns.

Hotels and clubs in most Indian cities, except those in Madras, capital of the southern Tamil Nadu state where the tsunamis claimed more than 6,000 lives, were going ahead with their celebrations, though some toned down programs and others decided to donate part of the money raised for relief work.

"Most of the performers have already arrived and the sponsors also want to go ahead. But they will be low-key programs," said Sanjukta Roy, a communications manager with the Taj Group of hotels.

In Australia, Angela Kretz, 29 and Tanya Ozolins, 23, camped on the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House to secure a prime view of the fireworks display. The pair debated whether it was selfish to celebrate while so many people were suffering in Asia.

In the end, they decided to donate money rather than forego the New Year's Eve party.

"To be here is really amazing," said Kretz, who is from Glasgow, Scotland. "So we'd rather donate some money than see the fireworks be canceled."