1 January 2001

Disaster hits millennium hardliners

The millennium was preceded by all kinds of apocalyptic warnings. In particular, the ‘millennium bug’ was expected to cause havoc with computerised technology, and millions of pounds were spent on contingency measures. In the event, the fears proved groundless in the vast majority of cases. As the Independent reported, however, there was one notable – and tragic – exception…

London's millennium celebrations left a tragic legacy


From the Independent, 1 January 2001

Tragedy has befallen an organisation dedicated to marking the millennium a year after the official date.

The True Millennialists argued that the second millennium would begin today, and boycotted the celebrations 12 months ago. Last night they duly marked the ‘true millennium’ in style, with a flotilla of boats on the Thames, and it was there that they met their fate.

A year ago, a massive series of pyrotechnics had been planned for the official celebrations. The climax was to have been a waterborne firework display that would turn the Thames into a ‘River of Fire’, but the fireworks failed to catch light and the spectacle was a damp squib.

Many experts had predicted that the so-called ‘millennium bug’ would cause widespread chaos, as computers failed to cope with the change of date. In the event these fears proved largely unfounded, and there was no significant disruption.

It now transpires, however, that one particular computer had a nasty surprise in store. During last night’s new year celebrations, the ‘River of Fire’ control system triggered the display exactly 12 months late. This ignited more than 400 hidden tanks of petrol that had been forgotten in the aftermath of the previous celebrations. The resulting fireball occurred just as the True Millennialists approached.

Instead of turning back, the Millennialists steered their boats into the flames, singing loudly and raising their arms to the sky. A witness said they appeared to take the fire as a sign of imminent Armageddon, and went willingly to meet their maker.

No spokesman for the organisation was available and its headquarters in Clapham was deserted.

Picture: PA

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