this is bbc news. i'm mike embley. efforts to evacuate a group of critically ill syrians from the rebel—held area of east ghouta begin. counting is under way in the run—off presidential election in liberia. a fireworks display in cuba goes horribly wrong — doctors fear for the lives of some of the injured. snowed under — a christmas storm dumps record amounts on some us states but it's not all fun and games. the international committee of the red cross says the evacuation of critical medical cases has begun from eastern ghouta in syria. the suburb near damascus has been under rebel control. almost 400,000 people there are besieged by forces loyal to president assad. virginia langeberg reports.
these photos posted on twitter by the syrian red crescent, an international committee of the red cross. a sign of hope forjust a few. four patients with critical medical conditions will now receive treatment in a hospital in damascus. in the rebel held suburb of eastern ghouta, the most vulnerable have little help. sick and malnourished, trapped under siege since 2013. on christmas day, the bbc aired a story ofa christmas day, the bbc aired a story of a young baby, two—month—old who lost a n of a young baby, two—month—old who lost an eye and suffered severe injuries ina lost an eye and suffered severe injuries in a suspected government attack. un efforts to arrange medical evacuations from ghouta have
until now fallen on deaf ears. last month, nine people who needed urgent medical care died after a request to get them out were denied. now the attention turns to those who can still be saved. including seven children curable cancer. but without the medicine to treat them.“ children curable cancer. but without the medicine to treat them. if we can save these seven children maybe we may also be able to get out the other 125 children in ghouta who are in desperate need of sophisticated medical support which they cannot get in ghouta. the syrian red crescent says the evacuations last night took a long time to negotiate. the first of 29 critical cases approved by authorities. the remainder will be evacuated to damascus over the coming days. it may seem just a drop in the ocean in the plight of so many. but it is perhaps a small change in what has
been an unforgiving ordeal for the people of eastern ghouta. there's plenty more information about the war in syria — as well as other top stories — on our website. just head to bbc.com/news. you can also download the bbc news app. counting is under way in a runoff election to choose the next president of liberia. it is a straight fight between the current vice president, joseph boakai, and world renowned footballer george weah. umaru fofana reports from the capital, monrovia. voting went peacefully with no reports of incidents. accompanied by his supporters, vice presidentjoseph boakai cast his vote. he sounded confident. asked as to whether he would accept the results he responded with a qualified yes. provided it needs our standard. after that a decision will be made. we are willing to work for whatever the final result is.
for supporters of the former football superstar george weah, it looked like a victory dance when he went to vote. the man who won in the first round sounded confident. i'm not associated with losing. i will win. boakai cannot win, and george weah can. what happened cannot happen again. initial indications are that the run—off was better organised than the first round. materials arrived on time and there have been no complaints so far of multiple voting according to the main local observation group. turnout seemed low. it has been quiet here at this high school. election officials are nibbling around without a lot to do. they say there's been like this for most of the day. only one person has come here in the last 30 minutes to cast their vote. with a result expected this week, liberians are looking forward
to the outcome. this is the first time in over 70 years that this country has set the stage for a peaceful transfer of power from one elected president to another. the united states has announced sanctions on two officials who are developing north korea's ballistic missile programme. in a statement the us treasury named the men, on the left ri pyong—chol and on the right kimjong—sik. treasury secretary steven mnuchin added, "treasury is targeting leaders of north korea's ballistic missile programmes, as part of our maximum pressure campaign to isolate north korea and achieve a fully denuclearised korean peninsula". ri pyong—chol is believed to be one of the most senior people in charge of the nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. kim jong—sik is thought to be behind the work to switch to solid fuel from liquid fuel, which is particularly difficult and dangerous to store. the united nations introduced
new sanctions last friday, in response to pyongyang's latest intercontinental ballistic missile test in november. i spoke just now with dr balbina hwang, visiting professor at the centre for security studies at georgetown. she explained what effect — if any — these sanctions are likely to have. dr balbina hwang is visiting professor at georgetown university's well, we have to remember that there are un security council sanctions as well is unilateral sanctions and these latest sanctions levied by the united states government are targeting individuals. these are really symbolic more than anything else. they are a very important part of president tom's maximum pressure on north korea but they will have little practical effect —— president trump's maximum pressure because it is only about us jurisdiction and it is unlikely either of these two men at any assets, certainly in their name, or any property in the united
states. the broader problem is that china and north korea and russia want to see the us off the peninsula altogether so at least china and russia will continue their support for pyongyang. certainly they will. the un security council sanctions are important because it sends a strong unified message but it is a very subtle and possibly a triple layered game that is being played. this is in the context of quite a lot of disorder and chaos in the united nations itself with the united states isolated on many other global issues. if that china, russia, north korea and to some extent south korea are on the same page, and an alignment between us and japan, how will that play out? the united states and south korea and japan are all firmly on the same side. the president of south korea has made absolutely certain that he is fully behind these sanctions and also wants to increase the pressure but at the same time, he is talking about wanting
a peaceful solution and frankly so, as has the trump administration. they've made this point repeatedly. it does seem that the north korean leadership is not suicidal. it doesn't want war but it has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons, it seems. will the world have to get used to a nuclear armed north korea? the thing here is the global non—proliferation regime and north korea is testing this but if we do accept north korea as a de facto legitimate nuclear power, that means essentially iran, perhaps syria and many other countries could break away so we have a much greater global concern here. scenes of utter destruction are coming out from remote villages in the philippines, hammered by tropical storm tembin. homes were all but flattened
in tugaya village, where 30 people died and 60 are missing in floods and mudslides. many local villagers were not evacuated in time. on average, the philippines is hit by around 20 typhoons each year. tembin battered the southern island of mindanao last friday, leaving at least 200 dead and around 70,000 homeless. it is really sad for us. even if we are working with people, rescuing them, it is not easy for us to accept the reality. brazil is expelling venezuela's top diplomat, just days after venezuela asked brazil's ambassador to leave. relations between the two neighbouring nations have deteriorated since michel temer took office in brazil last year, after dilma rousseff was impeached. leonardo rocha is americas editor of the bbc world service. he told me more about the spat. brazil decided to act three days after its own ambassador was expelled from venezuela. brazil said he is not
welcome any more. he will have two leave the country. —— he will have to leave the country. the whole crisis started on saturday when venezuelan decided to expel the top diplomats from brazil and canada on the same day. canada retaliated on monday with the same measure. relations have been bad. brazil in particular, the president, nicolas maduro, never recognised the government of michel temer, because dilma rousseff was a left—wing socialist president close to his government. they were building together oil pipelines to take venezuela's oil and gas to brazil. there was a strategic left—wing partnership in south america that has gone.
so, the reason given by venezuelan to expel the ambassador is because he broke the constitutional rule of law by impeaching dilma rousseff. they say relations would not be mended until that is sorted that will possibly never happen because the brazilian former presidency is not going to run for presidency. it is a difficult issue. this just thisjust in, to this just in, to journalists with reuters news agency arrested in myanmar on december 12th, have been remanded into custody for another fourteen days. the two, were detained after they were asked to meet police officers outside the largest city yangon. they had been covering the rohingya refugee crisis. a former minister in ivory coast — hubert 0ulaye — has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for complicity in the killing of 18 people — including seven un peacekeepers.
the attack was in 2012, as ivory coast tried to recover from the violence that followed the presidential election two years earlier. lawyers for the former minister say they'll appeal. ajudge in argentina has ruled that a prosecutor who died hours before he was due to testify against the former president, cristina fernandez de kirchner, was murdered. alberto nisman died in his apartment nearly three years ago — the official investigation concluded he'd committed suicide. video has emerged of a fireworks display that went horribly wrong at a popular festival in cuba. 39 people were injured, including children. doctors have some of the injured listed as "very grave" to "extremely critical." kathryn armstrong reports. the moment christmas celebrations sparked into terrifying chaos.
fireworks flying in all directions. what was intended as entertainment ended up as a barrage of missiles, raining on the spectators as they ran from the scene. people can be heard screaming during the harrowing video, captured during a popular cuban carnival on video, captured during a popular cu ban carnival on christmas video, captured during a popular cuban carnival on christmas eve. the incident has left 39 people injured including six children. of those taken to hospital, officials say 20 are seriously injured with some clinging to life. translation: mack we have six patients in extremely critical condition. it is the most grave status of a burn victims. we have two in critical condition and two in very grave. this festival in the central town takes place every christmas eve, drawing thousands of cu ba ns christmas eve, drawing thousands of cubans and some tourist. all victims
are thought to be locals. an investigation is now under way into the cause of the explosion. much more to come for you on bbc news including this, we meet a sea lion are brushing up on a special skill as the new year approaches. tambin we saw this enormous tidal wave approaching the beach, and people started to run, and suddenly it was complete chaos. the united states troops have been trying to overthrow the dictatorship of general manuel noriega. the pentagon said the operation had been 90% successful but it's failed in its principal objective — to capture general noriega and take him to the us to face drugs charges. the hammer and sickle was hastily taken away. the russian flag was hoisted over what is now no longer the soviet union, but the commonwealth of independent states. day breaks slowly over lockerbie, over the cockpit of pan
am's maid of the seas, nosedown in the soft earth. you could see what happens when a plane eight storeys high, a football pitch wide, falls from 30,000 feet. christmas has returned to albania after a communist ban lasting more than 20 years. thousands went to midnight mass in the town of shkodra where there were anti—communist riots ten days ago. this is bbc news. the latest headlines: medical evacuations have begun in the besieged damascus suburb of east ghouta. permission has been given for 29 critically ill syrians to be transported. votes are being counted in liberia, where a presidential election run—off has been taking place between a former international football star, george weah, and the current vice president, joseph boakai. a british woman has been sentenced to three years in an egyptian prison. laura plummer was found guilty of smuggling drugs. she was arrested in october, carrying 290 tablets of the painkiller,
tramadol, in her suitcase. daniela relph reports. laura plummer‘s family and friends say she is naive, not a criminal. but today the 33—year—old shop workerfrom hull is beginning a three—year sentence injail in egypt. her mother, roberta, and her egyptian partner, omar caboo, have been at court to support her during the hearings this week. laura plummer had been travelling to the red sea resort of hurghada to visit omar in october when she was stopped by the authorities. in her suitcase were 290 tramadol tablets, a painkiller which is legal on prescription in britain, but banned in egypt. she said the tablets were for her partner, who suffers from severe back pain, but she was arrested and has been held since then in a communal cell with up to 25 women. herfamily at home in hull
have described today's sentence as horrendous. she's just a normal girl who works in hull. she just sells clothes, she comes home, she watches telly and she goes to bed. she doesn't drink, she doesn't smoke, she doesn't do anything. she lives to go to egypt. she loves egypt. she loves the egyptian people. she's in love with omar. we cannot believe this has happened to her. we are absolutely devastated. laura plummer had been going on holiday to egypt's red sea resort for several years, but for her supporters, she has been let down by the country she loved. this woman doesn't deserve to be incarcerated in an egyptian prison and, to be honest with you, as much as i respect the customs of egypt and the laws and thejudiciary and everything else, this will put people off travelling on holiday to egypt in the future, and i think the egyptian authorities need to be mindful of that. the egyptian legal system is complex. laura plummer will now appeal against the three—year sentence, a jail term her family say
is shocking and unjust. daniela relph, bbc news. around 150 migrants are in a stand—off with police along the border between serbia and croatia the group, who have set up an improvised camp, are demanding passage through croatia and other countries in the european union. shuba krishnan reports. migrants desperately plead for safe passage. chanting: please open the border! even women and children join the chorus. chanting: please help us! police dressed in riot gear refused to let them enter. both sides unrelenting. the migrants have set up an improvised camp. they have food, and water, but what they really want is to find a new home.
we don't want to stay here until we die. maybe they open the border and we can go. just, we want, go from serbia. we don't want food and water, we just want permission to cross this border. it is an all—too—familiar story in the region, with 11,500 migrants in camps across serbia. and many continue to arrive as smugglers test new routes into europe. a heavy snow storm on the island of sakhalin in russia's far east has caused severe disruption. authorities have opened mobile warming centres for pedestrians, many of them forced to walk because public transport has all but ground to a halt. a pensioner is recovering in hospitalfrom being blown off a balcony. the airport and the ferry service with the mainland have been closed. parts of the us are receiving a full dose of winter, with some northern states in a deep freeze. in pennsylvannia, one of the country's snowiest cities has declared a state of emergency,
after smashing its highest ever daily snowfall record by more than a foot. georgina smyth reports. winter whiteout. trees buckling under the snow, streets choked with ice. all the hallmarks of winter and then some, with a record—breaking snow dump of 53 inches — that's nearly 1.3 metres — in erie, pennsylvania. at four times the city's previous all—time christmas record, it is the snowiest day on record for what is already one of america's snowiest cities. and the white stuff isn't making it easy for motorists. outside the city, it forced the festive traffic to a standstill on christmas day. officials have since declared a snow emergency, with some roads deemed dangerous and impassable. but for those at home with nowhere to go, there was only one thing to do. head out and enjoy the winter magic.
scenes like this are likely to continue for several days, with the snow still falling thick and fast, erie could receive another foot of it in the next day. on the west coast, hopes for a white christmas were granted when seattle had its first snow in nine years. portland had its sixth since 1884. in boston, icy conditions sent a plane skidding down a taxiway. heavy snowfall put a freeze on arrivals and departures at logan international for close to an hour. israel has protested after its chess players were barred from competing in an international tournament being hosted by saudi arabia. saudi arabia says visas could not be granted because the kingdom has no diplomatic ties with israel. the israeli chess federation says they will seek financial compensation. sodaba haidare reports. it was to be saudi arabia's winning
move on the world stage. holding a high profile chess tournament with players from around 70 countries, except one — israel. right up to the last moment negotiations were to get israelis players as there. there are still a lot of people that are doing negotiations by meeting saudi arabia is in order to let israelis players play in this world championship. but that did not quite work out and now the tournament is going ahead without israeli players. chess has been controversial in saudi arabia. the grand move the declared the game an islamic last year. this looked like a bolt mood and got some admirers. translation: this is a
truly unique experience among the gulf state. the players and the fans who get to watch and compete. to watch the hero in the game. others we re watch the hero in the game. others were unable to attend but there are generous prizes on offer and three more days of play to go but it has been a rocky start to saudi arabia's first attempt of hosting an international tournament. for most of us, christmas is now out of the way — next up, new year. but one special animal injapan is thinking a little further ahead — looking forward to the lunar new year. and this animal is trying to develop a special skill, in preparation. tim allman explains. meet mr chen, one of the stars of the show at this aquarium in yokohama. he's no ordinary sea lion. he has literary aspirations. with quite a bit of help from his trainer, he's trying his hand — or flipper — at calligraphy.
that is something that sea lions have a natural gift for, apparently. translation: it is a very smart animal and can perform delicate movements, so he is good at doing this. we want to practise more so he can perform cool drawings on new year's day. and what exactly has he been drawing? well, it's the symbol for a dog, the animal that will represent the new year in the chinese zodiac. his audience seemed fairly impressed. he still has a little time to practise. the lunar new year does not begin until february. tim allman, bbc news. budapest zoo has been showing off its latest arrival — a baby gorilla. the mum, a western lowland gorilla called n'yaounda, gave birth on christmas eve. this is the 5th baby born here in hungary.
for now, zoo keepers can't tell the baby's gender or weight, since its mother isn't letting it out of her arms. six gorillas live now in budapest zoo, two of them youngsters. the english footballer, harry kane, has set a new goal record in the premier league in a calendar year — doing it in style at wembley. a hat—trick against southampton took the spurs striker to 39 goals, surpassing alan shea rer‘s 22 year old record. that takes his haulfor club and country to 56 goals, making him the leading goalscorer in europe for 2017. now, take a look at these pictures. this is — or rather, was — one of the towers of the high—voltage power grid in china's hubei province. according to state media, the tower was demolished after the local government decided to dismantle the power grid traversing the yangtze river. much more on all the news on the bbc
website. thank you for watching. hello there. some of us have already seen snow already this festive season. for a few more, we're starting wednesday on a wintry note. we have an area of low pressure. this swirl of cloud drifting northwards in the cold air. while the system is delivering rain, mixed in with that, sleet and snow drifting across southern and south—eastern areas to start the day. further north and west, especially, northern england, northern ireland, scotland, potential for icy stretches with clear skies through the night. through the day, scotland, northern ireland, western areas of england and wales, that will have the best of the sunshine. towards the south and east, struggling to improve through the day. skies improving for the likes of oxfordshire and berkshire. but the london area will stay pretty cloudy. across kent, up into east anglia, here, outbreaks of rain sleet
and snow mixed in right through the afternoon, coupled with a strong northerly wind. that combination could actually cause a little bit of disruption. but across northern england, and the heart of scotland, a fine and crisp and cold sunny afternoon. some wintry showers filtering down into northern scotland. showers filtering into northern ireland. three degrees in belfast. a scattering of showers in wales. the west midlands and parts of the south—west as well. sunny spells in between. temperatures, four degrees in plymouth. a cold and fairly breezy day wherever you are. wednesday night, staying cold. temperatures widely dipping below freezing. again, that will lead to some icy stretches. still one or two showers in northern fringes particularly. temperatures close to freezing, perhaps below in some spots. thursday, this bump in the isobars, the ridge of high pressure, promising a decent day for many. yes, a cold and frosty start. but we will see some good spells of sunshine. still some wintry showers in the north. then a change to the south—west. clouding over, with outbreaks
of rain temporarily. snow on the leading edge, especially on the high ground. cold at this stage, six degrees at best. during friday these outbreaks of rain will slide northwards. a breezy day. notice, down towards the south—west. temperatures just beginning to climb. 10 degrees in plymouth. taking that that trend with us as we go to the weekend. temperatures climbing into double digits in places. but there'll be a lot of cloud, it'll often be windy, and there will be outbreaks of rain at times. evacuation of critically ill patients in a besieged area of syria has begun. it's understood four have been moved from eastern ghouta to hospitals in damascus — the first of 29 to be transported for medical treatment. the un has pleaded with the syrian government to allow about 500 to leave. votes are being counted in liberia, in the presidential election run—off between the former international
football star, george weah, and the current vice president, joseph boakai. there are hopes for the firthe us has imposed sanctions on two north korean officials it says are "key leaders" in developing north korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programme. st smooth transfer of power in 73 years. on friday, the un imposed new sanctions. analysts have told the bbc they are unlikely to be effective and are largely symbolic. pyongyang has described them as an "act of war". in the uk the university ‘s minister has