BANGKOK (AP) — As 2015 comes to a close, here is a glimpse of some of the Asia-Pacific's most important events of the year, through the eyes of Associated Press's photojournalists.
It was a year of meteorological extremes. In March, hundreds of Kashmiris in India and Pakistan moved to higher ground as rain-swollen rivers swamped parts of the disputed Himalayan region. In April, a strong earthquake and multiple aftershocks shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings and killing 8,900 people. In the summer months typhoons drenched parts of the region, while a hazardous haze caused by forest fires in Indonesia blanketed the country and its neighbors. And a gray soupy haze subsumed Beijing landmarks as the city invoked its first-ever red alert for smog, closing many factories and barring half the city's vehicles from the roads.
The region also experienced political change. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou shook hands to mark the first top-level contact between the formerly bitter Cold War foes since they split amid civil war 66 years ago. Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, died at age 91; the city-state mourned the man credited with transforming the resource-poor island into a wealthy finance and trade hub. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared that his country was ready to stand up to any threat posed by the United States as he spoke at a lavish military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the North's ruling party and trumpet his third-generation leadership. Thousands of Rohingya refugees, a Muslim minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, landed on the shores of Indonesia's Aceh province after being abandoned at sea in Southeast Asia. And on the fifth anniversary of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's release from house arrest, her party won enough seats in Parliament to allow it to form the country's first truly civilian government in more than half a century.
In August, a warehouse complex storing large amounts of hazardous chemicals caught fire and exploded in the Chinese port city of Tianjin, killing 165 and leaving eight missing. The disaster raised questions about corruption and government efficiency. Days later, a bomb placed at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok's busy tourist central district killed 20 people. The unprecedented act of violence in the Thai capital also left more than 120 injured. Authorities have made arrests but say they still don't know the motive.
The year also brought occasions to celebrate. Beijing was elected to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, becoming the first city to host both the winter and summer games. In cricket, Australia won its fifth World Cup title with an emphatic win over New Zealand. And millions of Hindus immersed themselves in the Godavari River at this year's Kumbh Mela festival. The waters of a holy river are said to wash away believers' sins.
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