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Somber New Year Begins In Asia

Happy New Year? Not this year, not in this region.

Authorities around Asia, which was battered by an earthquake and tsunami last weekend that killed well over 100,000 people, scaled back or canceled celebrations Friday to mark the new year.

In many places people were too busy counting the dead, feeding survivors and combating the spread of disease to even think about partying.

CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen reported from Phuket, Thailand, on a rush to

before the New Year began. And for many in the coastal area, a lifestyle built around fishing was also at end. Those fishermen who still had boats were unable to sell their fish because people feared the fish had eaten the bodies washed out to sea, reports Petersen.

In Indonesia, the nation hit hardest by the tsunami, most government agencies canceled fireworks displays and urged people to pray instead. A display in the capital, Jakarta, was turned into what officials described as a mass prayer service for the victims in Aceh province, where tens of thousands were killed.

Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supadi said the toll could reach 100,000.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in his annual end-of-the-year address to the nation, said now was not the time to celebrate.

"I call to all people to leave 2004 with a clear and honest reflection," Yudhoyono said. "Let's welcome the new year without a party because now we are filled with concern and sadness. We are still mourning.

"Let's pray together and hopefully God will not give us another disaster."

In Thailand, which said Friday its official death toll had soared to more than 4,500, parties were scrapped across the country.

"The Thai government has called for cooperation from government agencies and the private sector to cancel all New Year celebrations," government spokesman Jakrapob Penkair said.

A countdown party in downtown Bangkok that was to have featured Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and tennis stars Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams was canceled, and officials urged people instead to attend religious services to mourn the tsunami victims.

Jamnan Tiritan, organizer of a countdown party in the northern tourist city of Chiang Mai, said the event had been scrapped and replaced with a remembrance service to gather donations.

In Taiwan, the world's tallest skyscraper, Taipei 101, which officially opened Friday, was playing a key role in New Year's Eve celebrations that were scheduled to go ahead unaffected.

As many as 200,000 revelers were expected to converge on the neighborhood of the 1,679-foot-tall building for pop music concerts, a countdown and a massive light show and fireworks display.

Hundreds of thousands of Malaysians flocked to mosques, temples and churches Friday for special prayers to mark a somber New Year's Eve.

Government officials in the mostly Muslim country banned fireworks displays and canceled public concerts and celebrations as a sign of mourning for at least 66 Malaysians confirmed killed.

Many Malaysian hotels, shopping malls and nightclubs planned to hold a minute of silence before midnight instead of the traditional New Year countdowns.

The Islamic sultanate of Brunei also scrapped New Year's Eve festivities and held prayers at mosques.

Hotels and clubs in most Indian cities — except those in Madras, capital of the southern Tamil Nadu state where the tsunamis killed more than 6,000 people — were going ahead with their celebrations, though some toned down programs and others decided to donate part of the money raised for relief work.

"Most of the performers have already arrived and the sponsors also want to go ahead. But they will be low-key programs," said Sanjukta Roy, a communications manager with the Taj Group of hotels.

In Sydney, Australia, fireworks went off as planned from the landmark Harbor Bridge when the clock struck midnight, but only after a minute of silence to remember tsunami victims. Officials said it was too late to cancel festivities that include big ticket bashes around the glittering harbor and multimillion-dollar firework shows, the city's biggest party of the year.

Sydney City Council spokesman Jeff Lewis said revelers were being urged to give generously to a disaster fund.

In Turkey, Istanbul city officials said they were canceling New Year celebrations out of respect to tsunami victims. Each year, thousands of revelers converge on Istanbul's Taksim square for free concerts.

"The fact that the (disaster) occurred thousands of kilometers away from our country does not lessen the pain reflected in our hearts," Mayor Kadir Topbas said.

On mainland China, state television said it was canceling its live New Year's Eve gala programming out of respect for the disaster victims.

On tsunami-ravaged Phuket, Thailand, tourists and bar owners were not sure how to spend the evening.

"Too many people died here. I cannot celebrate New Year," said Rene Vander Veen, from Waiblingen, Germany.

Herve Boyomo, a Cameroon native, arrived from Beijing to look for his sister, Berthe Boyomo Ackermann. Asked what he would do on New Year's Eve, he replied: "Stay in the hotel and pray, that's all."

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