Thousands of party-goers have lined the Thames in London to see in the New Year, just hours after German police warned of a possible terror attack in the city of Munich.
There was little sign of any anxiety in London as 113,000 revellers enjoyed a lively atmosphere and looked in awe at an 11-minute firework extravaganza.
Police in Munich had earlier warned of a possible ‘planned terror attack’ in the city and asked people to avoid crowds and train stations.
A Tweet from Munich police warned people to stay away from the city’s main railway station and a station in the city’s Pasing district because of a “serious, imminent threat” of a terror attack. Both stations were evacuated and then closed to the public.
“Current indications show that a terror attack is being planned in Munich. Please avoid gatherings of people and the Munich and Pasing train stations,” police said in the tweet.
Munich newspaper TZ reported that police believed several groups of attackers could strike at different locations in the city.
“People who are in London tonight will probably see more police officers visible, including firearm officers, but that’s been the case since those dreadful attacks in Paris.”Met Police spokeswoman, Superintendent Jo Edwards
Police said they had two pieces of information about a possible attack, German media reported.
“We have concrete information that we cannot sweep under the carpet,” Bild newspaper quoted a police spokesperson as saying.
Local media reports say the information had come from French authorities.
Armed police have cordoned off the main station and asked people nearby to leave the area, TZ reported.
The newspaper quoted a spokesperson as saying the situation was “comparable to that in Hannover” in November, when a football match between Germany and the Netherlands was called off after what Hannover police called a “concrete security threat”.
“We want to minimise the risk as much as possible,” the spokesperson told the newspaper.
Cities across Europe were already on a heightened state of alert following the attacks in Paris and the reports came as every available officer at the Metropolitan Police’s disposal was on duty in London - including hundreds of specially trained firearms personnel.
Scotland Yard said there would be around 3,000 officers across central London as mayor Boris Johnson’s fireworks display with Unicef welcomed in 2016.
The Met confirmed New Year’s Eve was one of two events - along with Notting Hill Carnival - in which there was no holiday entitlement, meaning all available staff were called upon.
Metropolitan Police spokeswoman Superintendent Jo Edwards said before the event: “Around 3,000 officers will be on duty as part of our policing operation for the central London fireworks display, to play our part in ensuring that people see in 2016 safely.
“Across London my colleagues will be on duty providing our usual policing service.
“I hope that everyone in the capital has a safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve.
“Whilst we do not discuss numbers of armed officers on duty, contrary to some media reports officer leave has not been cancelled.
“Every year officers are rostered to work New Year’s Eve and Notting Hill Carnival as these are major policing operations in our annual calendar of events. This year is no different.
“We will be working closely with our partners at British Transport Police who will have additional armed officers in and around central London transport hubs throughout New Year’s Eve.”
The London event went ahead despite the New Year’s Eve fireworks display in Brussels being cancelled because of earlier threats of an extremist attack.
Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur said the decision was taken on Wednesday evening after consultation with government officials.
Last December 31, 100,000 people turned out in the Belgian capital to ring in the new year.
Brussels was home to four of the radical Islamic attackers who killed 130 people in Paris on November 13.
The Metropolitan Police said it had been working closely with the mayor’s office, British Transport Police (BTP), Westminster City Council and others to ensure the event ran smoothly.
The mayor’s fireworks display was ticketed for the second year and was sold out.
Later today, New Year’s Day, more than 8,500 performers representing 20 countries will take part in an annual parade through London.
The event, which includes marching bands, cheerleaders, clowns and acrobats, kicks off in Piccadilly and finishes in Parliament Square, taking in Lower Regent Street, Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall.
Ms Edwards later said there had been no specific intelligence received about a threat in the wake of the Brussels security precautions.
She said: “We’re mindful of what’s going on in other cities and across the world, we’re linked into the intelligence services, but there is no specific intelligence about the event in London tonight.
“We have every confidence our policing plan is as good as it can be. We’ve been policing at the threat level of severe for some time now, we are very experienced in London policing large-scale events.
“People who are in London tonight will probably see more police officers visible, including firearm officers, but that’s been the case since those dreadful attacks in Paris.
“We want people to be reassured, not frightened by the number of police officers they may see.”
Earlier in the day, New Zealand counted down the seconds to midnight with a giant digital clock on Auckland’s Sky Tower as it become the first nation with a sizeable population to welcome in the new year.
Horns blared and crowds cheered as the tower was then lit up with fireworks, with colours shifting from green to red to white.
In Australia, simultaneous fireworks displays erupted along Sydney’s famed harbour, where people crowded onto balconies, into waterside parks and onto boats as they jockeyed for the best view, clinking glasses and whooping with joy as the first pyrotechnics exploded.
More than 1 million people were expected to watch the glittery display, featuring a multicolored firework “waterfall” cascading off the Harbour Bridge and effects in the shapes of butterflies, octopuses and flowers.
Australian officials, struggling to contain the threat from home-grown extremists, encouraged revellers to enjoy the evening and assured them that thousands of extra police were patrolling major cities.
“Don’t change your way of life,” Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle urged residents of his city. “Don’t let events from around the world challenge the way that we live.”
New Year’s Eve is Japan’s biggest holiday, and millions crammed into trains to flee the cities for their hometowns to slurp down bowls of noodles, symbolising longevity, while watching the annual Red and White NHK song competition.
Tokyo was also on special alert for security issues this year, with posters in underground stations and other public spaces warning people to keep their eyes open for suspicious packages or activities.
South Koreans traditionally mark New Year’s Eve with bell ringing ceremonies, fireworks and outdoor music and dance performances.
Thousands of people, including North Korean refugees, were expected to gather at a town near the border with rival North Korea to watch one of the ceremonies and wish for peaceful Korean unification.
Meanwhile China held an official New Year’s Eve celebration near Beijing’s Forbidden City.
For security reasons, Shanghai closed subways near the scenic waterfront Bund because of a stampede last New Year’s Eve that killed 36 people and blemished the image of China’s most prosperous and modern metropolis.
Security is a big concern in many cities around the world this New Year’s Eve.
In the Thai capital Bangkok, police-flanked partygoers rang in the new year at the site of a deadly bombing that took place just months ago.
In Paris, residents recovering from their city’s own deadly attacks took in scaled-back celebrations.