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Asia Marks Christmas Punctuated with Terror Warnings, Natural Disasters


Millions of Christians in Asia celebrated Christmas in peace despite what have become annual warnings of possible terror attacks. Flooding and storms have also dampened the holidays for some. VOA's Heda Bayron has more from Hong Kong.

Thousands of police have been deployed to secure Christian churches in Indonesia.

Jakarta's Catholic Cathedral and other churches were packed for Christmas mass even as Western governments warned all week of possible bombings targeting churches during the holidays.

Masses were held without incident.

Predominantly Muslim Indonesia has taken annual precautions since 2000 when it suffered a series of church bombings during Christmas that killed 19 people.

In Pakistan Monday, the U.S. Embassy warned of possible attacks against American interests, which could include car bombs, on or about December 25.

Security was also heightened in Christian-majority Philippines as millions jammed churches to attend traditional Christmas Eve masses.

In the typhoon-ravaged central Philippines, residents remembered loved ones who died in landslides earlier this month.

A woman who lost her husband in a landslide, said she would still celebrate Christmas with her two children.

Heavy flooding marred the holidays for Christians on Indonesia's Sumatra Island. Thousands of people were being evacuated Monday after floods, triggered by heavy rains, engulfed villages. Scores of people have been killed and more than 100,000 have fled their homes.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says rescue and relief systems are at work to respond to the problem.

The floods also hit Aceh province, which is still recovering from the December 2004 tsunami that killed some 170,000 people there.

In Hong Kong, Christmas Eve took on a political tone.

Scores held a candlelight protest against the government's harbor front reclamation project.

The project involved tearing down two Hong Kong landmarks - the Star Ferry Pier and the Queen's Pier.