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Friday, January 1, 1999 Published at 16:05 GMT


New Year celebrations marred

Riot policemen take position in a suburb of Strasbourg

Celebrations to mark the New Year were marred by rioting in France, and serious accidents elsewhere.

Violence broke out in a number of poor neighbourhoods across France.

The BBC's John Young: "Riot police were stoned and cars were set alight"
The worst was in the city of Strasbourg near the German frontier where youths set fire to more than 40 cars, and 23 people were arrested. Police say they used tear gas to try to disperse the youths.

Clashes in some areas of the city occur almost every New Year's Eve but the authorities had staged a week of free concerts to try to prevent youths from rioting this time.

Paris Correspondent Hugh Schofield: "Gangs of boys went on the rampage"
Our correspondent in Paris says the media was also under pressure to be more discreet. In the past TV cameras, pre-positioned in the expectation of violence, were blamed for helping spark the violence off.

In Rouen and Le Havre in Normandy, in Mulhouse in the East and Bordeaux in the South, gangs of boys went on the rampage, setting fire to cars, telephone kiosks and bus shelters.

Firework accidents

In the Philippines, hundreds were injured in firecracker accidents and by stray bullets.

The Health Ministry said 492 people were hurt - including 37 who needed amputations.

At least 14 people were injured by bullets fired into the air to celebrate the advent of the New Year, despite government appeals for people not to fire live ammunition.

Filipinos traditionally let off firecrackers on 31 December to ward off evil spirits. Each year hundreds of people are injured and some killed.

Police in Colombia say more than 90 people died on New Year's Eve as a result of incidents involving guns and knives. There were a similar number of deaths during Christmas celebrations.

Colombia is one of the most violent places in the world - correspondents say most of the deaths are attributed to common crime, personal vendettas, and high levels of alcohol consumption.

In the United States, fireworks being loaded onto a barge exploded minutes before the craft was to be towed into the Mississippi River for a New Year's Eve display, killing two workers and severely burning a sheriff's deputy.

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