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Over 400,000 merrymakers crowd Taipei City Hall area

Ma says countdown celebration bigger than U.S. Times Square event

Over 400,000 merrymakers crowd Taipei City Hall area

Over 400,000 people gathered in City Hall Square last night to count down the new year and enjoy the fireworks show at the world's tallest building, Taipei 101, a celebration that Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) proclaimed surpassed the scale of the one held in New York City's Times Square.

But after the dramatic celebration, midnight revelers found that the area simply was not meant to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people.

The huge crowds of people including walkers, motorcycle riders and car and bus drivers were all plagued by "stop and go" traffic.

"I had to spend an hour on a 15-minute walk from the square to the MRT's Taipei City Hall station," complained one senior high school student surnamed Chang.

The celebration, which saw thousands of people pack the square beginning at about 7 p.m. on Saturday, peaked as fireworks erupted from Taipei 101 as soon as the New Year countdown ended.

The fireworks display that reportedly cost sponsor Sony about NT$20 million brought color to the 508-meter tall edifice and lit up people's faces and the evening sky. But the words "2006 BRAVIA BY SONY" that were flashed on the building rather than the usual "Happy New Year" seemed strange to many in the crowd.

Nonetheless, those in attendance watched wondrously as the firework bursts continuously colored the sky during the 128 second-long show, and raised their cameras and cell phones above their heads in a bid to capture the picturesque scene.

Taipei City Mayor Ma compared the scene in Taipei to that in Times Square when he appeared on stage at about 11:40 p.m. He said that according to the police, 250,000 people had gathered in City Hall Square itself and another 120,000 were bunched in the surrounding area for the party that formally ended at 1 a.m.

The number of people participating in the New Year's Eve Celebration had set a new high, the Taipei mayor announced to enthusiastic cheers from the crowd.

In addition to the performance of many well-known stars, such as members of pop group S.H.E., May Day (五月天), Machi and others, famous female singers Chang Hui-mei, Sun Yan-zi and Elva Hsiao performed on the same stage for the first time during the celebration, and Ma also sang with the famous band FIR after the countdown.

But due to the stream of people, many people in the square were unable to get a glimpse of the performers and could only listen to them sing through the loud speakers installed in the area.

One woman surnamed Huang lamented that she only stood 157 centimeters tall.

"I should have come on stilts," she said, as she repeatedly jumped in an attempt to see FIR on stage.

Another girl joked, "My vision was blocked by Yao Ming (the famous basketball player)," referring to the children sitting on the shoulders of their parents to get a better view who blocked the girl's vision.

The celebration tied up traffic in the Xinyi Shopping Area in Taipei City and during the wee hours of the first day of 2006, with people so densely packed into the area that there was very little maneuvering room for pedestrians.

People inevitably jostled one another whether on the street, at the MRT station or in the bus.

Some people worried about how to go home while others took the opportunity to take photos since they could not move.

One 24-year-old man who came from Taichung City to participate in the celebration in the nation's capital spent two hours walking from City Hall Square to the Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT station, leading him to voice regret at having made the trip since he still had a two hour bus ride home.

Despite the massive crowds, there were no reported injuries during the festivities, unlike last year when a woman was seriously hurt after her hair was caught in an MRT escalator.


Updated : 2021-06-22 16:53 GMT+08:00