Over 800,000 revelers gather near Taipei 101 for countdown party


TAIPEI–An estimated 800,000 people were drawn to the Xinyi District in eastern Taipei Saturday night for the city’s countdown celebrations to welcome in 2012, the Taipei City Police Department said Sunday. Floods of people began to crowd into the Taipei City Hall Plaza and the area around Taipei 101, one of the tallest buildings in the world, late Saturday afternoon for the New Year’s Eve countdown festivities.

The focal point of the New Year’s Eve bash was the annual fireworks show at the Taipei skyscraper. This year’s show, which cost NT$30 million (US$990,600), lasted 202 seconds and fired off 30,000 fireworks.

To accommodate the crush of people, the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system remained in operation throughout the night and handled 2.04 million passengers.

About 850 volunteers and MRT police were on hand to help maintain order and provide assistance to the handicapped, the elderly, pregnant women and children.

During the six-hour celebration, 172 people called for help, with 62 suffering from falls or sprains and 110 complaining of chest tightness, fever or other problems brought on by the crowded conditions, according to the police department.

Though 60 environmental protection volunteers were on the scene with placards encouraging sound environmental practices, 17.5 tons of garbage littered the area and was cleaned up by 500 workers before daybreak. Fireworks displays were also the highlights of New Year’s Eve celebrations around Kaohsiung. The fireworks show at E-Da World, a multiple recreation complex, lasted 11 minutes and 11 seconds, and the show at the Dream Mall lasted 180 seconds. A young man attending the E-Da World party suffered a burn on his head after being hit by burning ashes of a firecracker set off by somebody else in the crowd. He was rushed to the emergency ward of a nearby hospital and was discharged 30 minutes later after being treated, said E-Da World spokeswoman Chiang Hui-sung. The individual suspected of setting off the firecracker or other explosive device that caused the injury was arrested by police, according to Chiang.