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China ice festival launches without a bang
Visitors take photographs on an ice sculpture during the 16th Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang province on January 5, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR.


HARBIN.- A spectacular ice festival opened in China on Monday but officials cancelled a firework display to allay safety concerns after a deadly New Year stampede in Shanghai.

The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, in the chilly northeastern province of Heilongjiang, draws tens of thousands of visitors each year to its enormous ice buildings and sculptures.

But organisers told AFP they had cancelled a firework show originally planned to open the festival because of safety concerns, days after a crush in the Chinese commercial hub Shanghai killed 36 revellers.

That disaster happened as people packed into the waterfront Bund to usher in 2015.

The Harbin fireworks were set to be held at a theme park featuring massive and dazzlingly lit ice replicas of Chinese palaces, Russian churches and French cathedrals.

The festival regularly attracts more than 800,000 people during its run. But visitors gave the fireworks cancellation a frosty reception on Monday as the mercury dropped to a piercing minus nine degrees Celsius (16 degrees Fahrenheit).

"It was the main reason for us coming here today," said Li Chen angrily after she was told by security that it would not be taking place.

"Shall we go home now? It's too cold," said her boyfriend, taking Li's hand.

But others refused to let the cancellation stop them having fun at the festival, which features an ice maze and slides. 

"I am not bothered," said one six-year-old boy who gave his name as Liu, moments after he had reached the bottom of a three-storey-high ice slide.

"I just want to see how fast I can go."





© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse






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