Joe Biden has taken the oath of office to become the 46th president of the United States, taking the helm of a deeply divided nation and inheriting a confluence of crises arguably greater than any faced by his predecessors.

Earlier, Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first woman vice president. The former U.S. senator from California is also the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency and is the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government.

In a time of national tumult and uncertainty, there were comforting signs of tradition for the hallowed American democratic rite at a U.S. Capitol battered by an insurrectionist siege just two weeks ago. On a chilly Washington day, a bipartisan trio of ex-presidents along with the elite of nation's government gathered, ensuring the quadrennial ceremony persevered, even though it was encircled by security forces evocative of a war zone and devoid of crowds because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Flouting tradition, Donald Trump departed Washington on Wednesday morning ahead of the inauguration rather than accompany his successor to the Capitol. Three other former presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, gathered to watch the ceremonial transfer of power.