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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 January, 2004, 08:31 GMT
Edinburgh cancels Hogmanay revels
Skyline of Edinburgh
Dark skies above Edinburgh where fireworks should have been
New Year parties across the UK, including huge outdoor celebrations in Edinburgh, have been cancelled due to high winds and rain.

Concerts and fireworks across the seven hills above the Scottish capital were called off just an hour and a half before midnight.

Up to 100,000 revellers in the city centre, including many tourists, were asked to disperse.

Celebrations in other parts of the UK were also dampened by the weather.

In Liverpool, Newcastle, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Gateshead, major fireworks displays and other events were postponed.

Weather forecasters warned of ice and blizzards and dangerous driving conditions on many roads in Scotland, the North East and North Midlands.

Roads across the Pennines were blocked by heavy snowfalls while the M62 motorway between Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire was said to be just passable as drifting snow reduced it to one lane.

London crowds

Celebrations went ahead in several other cities and large crowds gathered in London amid tight security.

Later on Thursday, tens of thousands of people are expected to gather in central London to watch the New Year's Day parade.

Earlier thousands travelled into the capital for the traditional celebrations in Trafalgar Square, and fireworks at the London Eye to welcome in 2004.

The four-day Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh are among the biggest in the world and draw thousands of visitors to the city.

The huge fireworks display was due to be the climax to a night of entertainment which was to include a concert in Princes Street Gardens and stages of DJs and ceilidh music.

New Year celebrations begin in Newcastle

Visitors were left disappointed when events were cancelled with less than two hours to go because of safety concerns in high winds.

Latini Stefano, 42, from Rome, said: "I can't understand why it was not possible to see beforehand how the rain could affect the event."

And Sanne Van Dermeer, a 19-year-old student from Amsterdam, said the cancellation was a "big disappointment" on her three-day trip to Scotland.

Pete Irvine, director of Unique Events, which co-ordinated the four-day Hogmanay programme, said the decision to cancel had been "very, very tough," and defended its timing.

"We cancelled each thing in progression and we didn't even cancel the fireworks until the very last minute," he said.

Damage and injury

"We all wanted this to go on and we had to balance our consideration for those many people from across the world who had travelled to Edinburgh with our equally important responsibility to ensure the safety of everyone at the event."

Rainfall earlier in the day gave way to increasingly strong winds, blustering up to 48mph, causing structural damage and injury to at least four event stewards.

Two fireworks displays in Newcastle and Gateshead were also cancelled.

A spokeswoman for Newcastle City Council said: "Winds of 30 to 40 knots and heavy snow have been predicted so we are only having two of the four firework displays."

In Aberdeen, the appalling conditions forced the last minute cancellation of a large street party, disappointing up to 50,000 revellers.

In Liverpool, a 24,000 firework display was postponed and a plan to light up various landmarks shelved because of the forecast gales and heavy rain.

In central London 3,000 officers were on duty to counter fears of a terror attack, although Scotland Yard said there was no specific threat.

Nevertheless, thousands of people took up positions on the Embankment opposite the London Eye for the Mayor of London's midnight firework display.

Mary Woodman, 66, from Fenham, Newcastle, said: "It was absolutely brilliant and the setting was magnificent, against the Eye."

Busiest night

Large crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square to watch the fireworks on a large screen.

Assistant Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police's spokesman for New Year's Eve, said around 100,000 had been out, as expected.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said later that 75 people had been arrested during the celebrations.

More than half the arrests were for drunkenness and public order offences. The rest were for assault, theft, offensive weapons or drugs-related offences.

Ambulance crews in London had their busiest night of the year with more than 400 calls an hour. Between midnight and 0400GMT, London Ambulance Service received 1,375 emergency calls.

Some 52 people were treated for minor injuries at first aid posts within event areas and 24 others were taken to hospital.

Glasgow concert

About 100,000 people joined the festivities in central Glasgow, where the Proclaimers headlined the entertainment, but like others, they missed out on fireworks.

An estimated 30,000 Welsh revellers were in Cardiff for the annual Calennig celebrations, which included a fireworks display in Bute Park and an Elvis tribute act from California.

In Leeds, Millennium Square was the focus of events, with a firework display and New York-style ticker tape parade planned for midnight.

At Birmingham's Millennium Point a free event included Abba tribute band Bjorn Again and Irish boy band D-Side.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Mike Sergeant
"The foul weather had wrecked the party"



SEE ALSO:
In pictures: New Year's Eve
01 Jan 04  |  Photo Gallery
Revellers defy security concerns
01 Jan 04  |  Americas
Stadium hosts school disco
31 Dec 03  |  Wales
Hogmanay set for capital show
14 Nov 03  |  Scotland
Hogmanay ticket warning
18 Dec 03  |  Scotland
CCTV to watch New Year revellers
31 Dec 03  |  Southern Counties


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