Monitors Spot Santa Claus In Manila

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AFP) - Santa Claus is coming to town - and the organization responsible for monitoring North American airspace is helping your kids track him as he completes his whirlwind journey around the globe.

The Santa tracker set up by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a US-Canada joint operation, said that at 15:15 GMT (11 p.m. Monday) Santa and his overworked reindeer had just passed over the Philippines' capital, Manila.

The website, www.noradsanta.org, is available in eight languages and allows children to find Santa's location and upcoming stops on his trip. It also tracks the number of presents left for children. So far? More than 1.2 billion.

After leaving the North Pole, Santa will crisscross the world until 09:00 GMT Tuesday, when all the gifts will have been placed under Christmas trees.

NORAD normally has the very serious task of protecting the United States and Canada, detecting any attacks from the air or the launching of nuclear weapons. But each year, it uses its powerful technology to provide Christmas cheer.

NORAD pulls out all the stops to locate Saint Nick, stopping at no fewer than four high-tech systems: radar, satellites, ''Santa Cams'' and, yes, fighter jets. After all, Santa travels ''faster than starlight.''

''We're the only organization that has the technology, the qualifications, and the people to do it. And, we love it! NORAD is honored to be Santa's official tracker!'' NORAD says on its website.

NORAD's Santa tracking tradition dates back to 1955, when a department store ad in a Colorado newspaper, which offers to connect children with the cheerful Christmas icon, included an incorrect phone number.

It mistakenly directed them to the hotline of NORAD's predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command.

To avoid disappointing the little ones, the director of operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, ordered his staff to check the radar to see where Santa might be and update the children on his location.

NORAD maintains that Santa is the real deal.

''Mountains of historical data and more than 50 years of NORAD tracking information leads us to believe that Santa Claus is alive and well in the hearts of people throughout the world,'' it says.

And it warns children that Santa's route ''can be affected by weather.''

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