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Asia Observes New Year Marred by Tragedy


Cities across Asia canceled or muted New Year's celebrations following Sunday's deadly earthquake and tsunamis. Revelers who a week ago looked forward to fireworks marked the New Year with prayer, with tears, and with donations for the victims of the year-end tragedy.

Music played as mourners in Thailand - one of the hardest hit countries - light candles in lieu of fireworks and New Year's Eve parties.

Official celebrations were also called off in Sri Lanka and Indonesia - the two countries that suffered from a combined death toll of more than 100,000 people in the massive earthquake and tsunami.

Malaysia banned public celebrations; the Maldives, parts of Southern India, were all too overwhelmed by the tragedy to welcome the New Year.

Pramech Goel - an events manager with India Habitat Center in New Delhi - spoke to Channel News Asia.

"We have canceled all the New Year's Eve celebration as a mark of respect to the dead and to people who have lost their lives and others who have been displaced," explained Pramech Goel.

Prayer services across the region were packed. Muslim, Christian and Buddhist set aside religious differences, united by their grief and loss.

Other countries went ahead with long-planned parties and fireworks displays, but the tsunami and its victims were never far from people's thoughts.

In Australia, donations were as free flowing as the champagne. Grant Thomas works for the aid agency CARE and says Australians have never been so generous.

"There was a whole range of people that was fundraising with New Year's Eve parties; night clubs, restaurants, they all selected different charities to support," he said.

Partygoers watching fireworks in Sydney donated nearly $1 million in just a few hours.

Nearly everywhere celebrations were held, moments of silence punctuated the revelry. In China, the state-run television canceled its live New Year's Eve gala programming. And in Hong Kong, local musicians and celebrities are staging a New Years Day fundraising show.

Meanwhile, U.S. Marines spent New Year's Eve off the coast of Indonesia on board the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. The ship's 4,000 military personnel will deliver aid and assistance to Banda Aceh - the area closest to the December 26 magnitude 9 earthquake.

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