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New Year's Celebrations Muted Following Natural Disasters - 2004-12-31


New Year's celebrations have begun across the Asia-Pacific region, but those not canceled entirely have been significantly curtailed and muted as the tsunami death toll in Southern Asia continues to rise.

Australia's largest city, Sydney, held its festivities as scheduled, but officials urged revelers to give generously to funds for tsunami and earthquake survivors.

Thailand called off a huge party in Bangkok that was to have featured Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and tennis stars Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams. Bangkok urged people to attend religious services instead.

Malaysia canceled fireworks and concerts, and Singapore decided not to televise its midnight New Year's festivities.

Many European countries plan curtailed celebrations amid somber displays of respect for disaster victims, many of whom were European vacationers.

Information for this report is provided by Reuters and AFP.

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