Sydney ushers in the new year with spectacular celebrations

AFP and AP

SYDNEY — Australia’s biggest city was Wednesday preparing to lead the world in welcoming the New Year with spectacular fireworks over Sydney Harbour, defying terrorist fears days after a deadly siege. From Hong Kong to London and New York to Rio, millions around the world will celebrate when the clock ticks past midnight, ringing in 2015 with massive fireworks displays, concerts and light shows.

In Sydney, rocked by deadly drama just before Christmas when an Iranian-born gunman with a history of violence and extremism took 17 hostages in the city’s financial hub, tonnes of fireworks will explode over the harbour. Up to 1.6 million people are expected to attend. Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the two hostages who died �X cafe manager Tori Johnson and barrister Katrina Dawson �X would be remembered with floral tributes on the pylons of the Harbour Bridge. ��We are celebrating that we are a multicultural, harmonious community but we will be thinking about what happened,�� she said. In the aftermath of the siege, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said security agencies had picked up a heightened level of ��terrorist chatter�� and warned that ��the terror threat remains high and… at this level, an attack is likely��. But Moore played down fears of another such incident Wednesday, telling AFP: ��We are very confident that it will be a safe event.�� The first of three fireworks displays began at 9:00 p.m. and saw brilliant bursts of colour over the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, as revellers readied for more at 10.40pm before the midnight finale.