December 31, 2018 20:07:07
Thousands of revellers have descended on Sydney’s Harbour to watch the fireworks — but with just hours to go until the clock strikes midnight, rain has started falling in the city’s metropolitan area and more is on the way.
Parts of Sydney are expecting severe thunderstorms, and heavy rain is falling over the Sydney Harbour.
Despite the rain, people are staying put, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting the storm will pass over Sydney.
Organisers have confirmed there are no delays or problems with the fireworks displays.
Thousands of people have already laid out their rugs in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden for tonight’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, with some even camping overnight to nab the best spots.
Up to 1.5 million people are expected to crowd the Harbour foreshore to watch the city’s world-renowned pyrotechnic display.
From there, they will see 8.5 tonnes of fireworks launched into the sky.
At about 10:00am after the gates opened many people bolted the one kilometre from the New South Wales Art Gallery to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, flopping on the grass, red-faced and panting, in order to get their favoured spot.
There are 18 launch computers linked by 60 kilometres of wire and cables, allowing this year’s show to be synchronised to music.
At the Royal Botanic Garden, the oldest resident of the pop-up community there is Shih-Yinu Chen, who has been lined up for a staggering 50 hours.
She is from Taiwan and on a working holiday in Australia with her friends.
“I want to see a better view for fireworks, because the Sydney fireworks is very famous,” she told the ABC.
Peter is a Taiwanese student living in Australia and has also been lined up for more than 24 hours.
“I know so many people wait here, and so that’s why I came early, two days ago,” he said.
“It’s just like camping, meet new guys, new friends.”
A new Indigenous element, called “Calling Country” will help kick off 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
And animated birds and fish will appear on the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons, accompanied by violins and singing in Gadigal language.
Aretha Franklin — who died in August — will also be honoured at the event.
Calls for responsible fun
Paramedics are urging revellers across the country to drink responsibly, avoid drugs and “look after mates” as they ring in the new year.
Queensland senior advanced care paramedic Stephen Turner said emergency workers were bracing for a busy night, with an additional 65 staff members rostered to work in Brisbane and more than 100 across the state.
“We’d really like everyone to drink responsibly … drink to your limits,” he said.
“We want to see everyone get home safe … please establish a designated driver, catch a taxi, public transport.”
He also warned partygoers to steer clear of drugs following the recent death of a young man at Lost Paradise music festival, north of Sydney.
“We really don’t know what’s in them, and time and again we’ve seen the death of young people as a result of some of these substances,” he said.
“Look after your mates.”
Police out in full force
Police in all major city centres will be out in full force this New Year’s Eve, with uniform and plain clothes officers carrying out extra patrols through the night to target anti-social behaviour, violence and drink and drug driving.
Road closures, barriers, bag checks and CCTV cameras are among the security measures in place across the country’s capital cities.
In Adelaide, police are reminding revellers that in the CBD and at beachside Glenelg, officers will have the power to use metal detectors to search people and direct people to leave and stay out of certain areas.
“Last year, we had a total of 44 evictions from declared public precincts,” Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval said.
“10 people were barred from those areas and six people were searched using the metal-detection wands.”
The national terror threat level remains at “probable”, which means that intelligence agencies believe individuals or groups “continue to possess the intent and capability to conduct a terrorist attack”.
Revellers should continue to exercise caution and report any suspicious incidents to the National Security Hotline by calling 1800 123 400.
Life-threatening situations should be reported to the police by calling triple zero.
Keeping pets safe and happy
New Year’s Eve remains the busiest night of the year for Melbourne animal welfare organisation The Lost Dogs’ Home, which is expecting to see three times as many canines tonight.
Many dogs are afraid of fireworks according to the organisation’s manager of veterinary medicine, Julia Bellamy.
She urged Australians to make sure their pets were supervised this evening.
“It’s very important that we keep them safe and secure,” she said.
“Let your dog decide where it wants to be. It may have a favourite hiding spot … you can put some pillows and some blankets in there to try and mask the sound.”
Guests at New Year’s Eve parties are also being urged to be careful to keep doors and gates closed.
And owners are also being urged to make sure their pet’s council registration and microchip details are up to do date so if their furry friend makes a break for freedom, they can be reunited.
People who find pets tonight should contact their local council.
December 31, 2018 17:29:17