Tens of thousands turn out for Lunar New Year fireworks

In a puff of fire and smoke, the Dragon gives way to the Snake

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 February, 2013, 7:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 February, 2013, 3:46am

The Year of the Snake hit the city with a bang last on Monday night with 4.5 tonnes of explosives fired off in the fireworks display above Victoria Harbour. About 340,000 people watched the fireworks at the peak of the display, police said, most of them on the Kowloon side.

“What’s that? It’s all big and wriggling about. It looks like a snake!” said Ian Ting Yi-sun as he watched the display from the front of the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

The six-year-old, perched on his aunt’s shoulders, was among the revellers bidding farewell to the Year of the Dragon.

“I hope for good health and for Hong Kong to have less negativity and political tension,” said Amy Yu, a housewife.

I hope for good health and for Hong Kong to have less negativity and political tension

At the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club in Causeway Bay, seven young cancer patients and their families were bundled up and sat out at the patio, as part of an outing organised by the Red Cross Hospital Schools.

“The fireworks here are like they’re flying in my face. The last part was the best,” said Lam Yi-ning, 11, whose brain cancer has recently gone into remission.

Her mother, Phoebe Chan Ching-yee, said the children gained strength to fight their disease through such activities. “Going out makes them more confident,” she said. The club has been providing the children with a front-row seat, away from the crowds, for several years.

At 8pm the fireworks went off without a hitch, moving through traditional songs, Mando-pop and Gangnam Style, to Katy Perry’s Firework. At one point, a laser rendition of South Korean rapper Psy, beamed onto the side of the Cultural Centre, danced to the beat of his hit song. After the final bars of Perry’s pop hit rang out and the smoke cleared, the crowds moved back into the city.

Safety measures were ramped up for Monday night’s Lunar New Year fireworks display as a result of the Lamma ferry disaster that claimed the lives of 39 people at last year’s National Day fireworks.

The Marine Department and Marine Police are collaborating to increase patrols and vessel inspections and improve marine traffic control.

At 3.30pm, 22 Marine Department patrol ships and 109 officers started inspecting vessels in the harbour, which represents an additional seven ships and 27 officers than were available at the National Day fireworks.

“We will especially check to ensure that all children are wearing life jackets, and that crews maintain passenger lists. If a vessel doesn’t meet the department’s safety requirements, they won’t be permitted to proceed into Victoria Harbour,” said Senior Marine Officer Ivan Shuen Chi-keung.

In addition to inspection, marine traffic was also tightly controlled, with a closed area established in waters off the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai where no vessels were allowed to enter as of 2pm.

Only an estimated 150 spectator vessels, including ferries and cruise ships, will be allowed to enter a restricted area in the Central Harbour between 7pm to 9.15pm.

The restrictions on the area will be progressively lifted after the fireworks display, according to the instructions of the Marine Department and police at the scene.

Police will assist the Marine Department to monitor marine traffic and to control crowds watching the fireworks on both sides of the harbour. A police spokeswoman declined to say how many officers will be present.

Roads in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hung Hom, Central and Wan Chai were closed and traffic re-routed to accommodate the crowds, said the spokeswoman.

Previous government investigations into serious or fatal marine accidents in Hong Kong have mostly attributed blame to inadequate safety preparations or contingency measures.

A commission of inquiry into the causes of the Lamma IV incident is currently underway.