New Zealand's major cities greet 2020 with fireworks

New Zealand's major cities greet 2020 with fireworks

New Zealand's major cities greeted the new year with traditional fireworks.

In Auckland, half a ton of fireworks burst from the Sky Tower above the city center.

New Zealanders saw off the old year without regret.

On March 15, a lone gunman identified killed 51 people and wounded dozens at two mosques in the South Island city of Christchurch.

In December, an eruption of volcanic White Island off the east coast of the North Island killed at least 19 tourists and tour guides.

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati was one of the first countries to welcome the new decade. The nation's 3,200 coral atolls are strewn more than 3 million square miles, straddling the equator.

As the new year begins, Kiribati finds itself on the front line of the battle against climate change, facing drought and rising sea levels.

In 2020, a project funded by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Green Climate Fund and Kiribati's government brings hope of providing safe and climate-secure drinking water to the main island of Tarawa, which is home to most of the nation's 110,000 people.

In Samoa, New Year's Eve was more somber than usual. While fireworks erupted at midnight from Mount Vaea, overlooking the capital, Apia, the end of the year was a time of sadness and remembrance.

A measles epidemic in late 2019 claimed 81 lives, mostly children under 5.

More than 5,600 measles cases were recorded in the nation of just under 200,000. With the epidemic now contained, the Samoa Observer newspaper named as its Person of the Year health workers who fought the outbreak.

“We have experienced extreme sadness and sorrow,” the newspaper said. “Since the first measles death, the pain has only deepened. But amidst much hopelessness and tears, we have also seen the best of mankind in this country's response.”

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