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World landmarks plunged into darkness to mark Earth Hour

Lights illuminating some of the world's best-known landmarks in more than 7,000 cities across 172 countries were turned off for an hour on Saturday. The annual Earth Hour initiative is meant to highlight climate change.

The Earth Hour campaign, which encourages people to turn off non-essential lights as a symbol for their commitment to our planet, took place at 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday in 24 different time zones around the globe. Hundreds of millions of people took part in the event, organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which first began in Sydney, Australia nine years ago.

Landmarks including Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue, London's Houses of Parliament and the Kremlin in Russia were plunged into darkness during the worldwide event, whose tagline for this year's campaign was "Change Climate Change."

In the German capital, Berlin, activists placed candles in paper bags at the unlit Brandenburg Gate to spell out the words "Save our Climate! Now!"

In Paris alone, almost 300 of the city's monuments switched off their lights. The French capital will host a crucial UN climate conference in December, which will bring the international community together to discuss plans to limit global warming.

The first nation to mark Earth Hour on Saturday night was the island of Samoa, in the southern Pacific Ocean, where participants turned off all the lights in their homes for 60 minutes.

In the Philippines, there was a large-scale Zumba dance in Quezon City, while in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, 5,000 people marched to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Basantapur Durbar Square for a concert.

Ahead of Saturday's switch off, Earth Hour ambassador and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that climate change is a "people problem."

"People cause climate change and people suffer from climate change. People can also solve climate change," Ban said in a video address.

"By turning out the lights we also highlight that more than a billion people lack access to electricity. Their future wellbeing requires access to clean, affordable energy," he added.

ksb/bk (AFP, AP, dpa)

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