this is bbc news. i'm samantha simmonds. our top stories: hundreds of families are spending christmas day in emergency shelters as australia's bushfires continue to burn out of control. communities rally round those fighting the flames. christmas shopping or anything for my daughter. just about the 11th. just thank you. thank you very much. police in hong kong clash with pro—democracy protesters during demonstrations in shopping centres popular with christmas tourists. reports say five children are among the dead after a week—long offensive by syrian government forces in the mainly rebel—held province of idlib. bells toll. pilgrims from around the world join
locals in bethlehem to celebrate christmas in the holy land. hello and welcome to bbc news. it's christmas morning in australia but hundreds of families are spending the day in emergency shelters, unable to celebrate in their homes, as the country battles one of its worst bushfire disasters in years. figures released by firefighters in new south wales reveal nearly 1,000 houses have been destroyed. conditions have eased, but another extreme heatwave is due later this week. prime minister scott morrison was criticised for going on holiday during the bushfires. he's since returned and apologised for being away. he says volunteer firefighters who work in the federal public sector will be given an extra four weeks paid leave.
phil mercer reports from new south wales. koalas and other australian animals are the unseen victims of the fires. much of their habitat has been destroyed and the survivors need all the help they can get. the true extent of australia's bushfire crisis is gradually emerging as the charred remains of devastated towns are inspected. since the start ofjuly, the authorities here in new south wales say almost a thousand homes have been destroyed by the bushfires. this property was devoured by flames that tore up through a gully at the back. communities like this terrorised by fires that, in many places, are simply burning out of control. we just want to make sure that you guys have got stuff for your community. the damage would be far worse without the efforts of volunteer firefighters. here in buxton, locals have been
showing their appreciation to those who have been working around the clock to keep the town safe. it is just overwhelming support with presents and stuff for the kids. i haven't even done any christmas shopping or anything for my daughter. she will turn one on january the 11th. to boost the emergency efforts the australian prime minister, scott morrison, says that volunteer firefighters who have jobs in the public service will be given four weeks‘ paid leave. some have been battling the fires for months and with no end in sight to the crisis, a long, dangerous summer lies ahead. phil mercer, bbc news, new south wales. mr morrison released a christmas message, alongside his wifejenny, in which he praised the efforts of all of those fighting the country's fires. he delivered a tribute to the two volunteer firefighters who lost their lives earlier this week to the bushfires.
we week to the bushfires. think especially of the famil of we think especially of the families of andrew 0'dwyer and geoffrey keaton who we lost in the fires recently here in new south wales. and to melissa and tojess and all of yourfamily, and to melissa and tojess and all of your family, to andrew and jeff's pa rents, of your family, to andrew and jeff's parents, we know this will be a tough christmas for you this year, the first one without both of these amazing men, and all of those out there in the horsley park brigade we send our great love and our best wishes to you. they are a reminder of why this country is amazing. and they are a reminder of what we have got to give thanks for, despite these many challenges. so, on behalf of ourfamily to yours, we these many challenges. so, on behalf of our family to yours, we wish you a very merry christmas. danuta kozaki is a news reporter at abc in sydney who's been covering the fires. she has the latest. luckily, conditions have eased, we have seen cooler weather across the country and firefighters, particularly in new south wales, have taken particularly in new south wales, have ta ken advantage particularly in new south wales, have taken advantage of that and they are strengthening containment lines today so we have got some 2000
firefighters in new south wales alone working on christmas day giving up theirtime alone working on christmas day giving up their time today to basically work to protect communities in and around sydney and on the new south wales south coast. and what kind of help and support are the many hundreds of families who have been affected heading? there has been a lot of support through various government departments. we have heard about the federal government giving leave to volunteers. we are also seeing many of the different government departments giving grants and we are seeing a lot of volunteer organisations helping to give communities something, basically, to live in. we have seen lots and lots of people going to family and friends. we have got nearly 1000 homes that have been destroyed in new south wales alone. so a lot of those people have gone to family and friends. the last evacuation centre, the formal evacuation centre, closed in lithgow around four o'clock last night and that was so that people could go and have their christmas.
and it means that basically, most families now have sort of sorted out a temporary situation for themselves. what are conditions looking like over the next few hours and days? well, we have had a bit of and days? well, we have had a bit of a mixed blessing so we have had a little bit of rain, we have had, in some areas, coastal areas only, around 15 millimetres. u nfortu nately, around 15 millimetres. unfortunately, the rain has actually hampered conditions in land so the main fires hampered conditions in land so the mainfires up hampered conditions in land so the main fires up in the hawkesbury region and in the blue mountains, it is only been a drizzle, and that is actually meant that there is humidity which means they cannot do their backburning. and so they are waiting for the bit of moisture that is there to dry off so they can do the containment operations. so the next few days are all about protecting properties, we are seeing another heat wave coming in on the weekend and towards new year's eve. politically, the pressure that the prime minister scott morrison was coming under as he was on holiday, is that eased now that he has returned and faced the media? well,
i would say it has eased, the fact that he has made several announcements and has toured several areas. he has been very, very visible since he got back from his holiday in hawaii and i think it was a political misstep from him because that was one thing that everyone thought well, where is he? people work calling his office and at first, his staff were, in fact, denying that he was in hawaii is that it was a political misstep and he has since recovered and now he is touring with the premier, gladys berejiklian, and other parts of the country. let's get some of the day's other news. in northern burkina faso, militants killed 35 mostly female civilians after attacking a military outpost in arbinda, in the soum province. authorities said around 87 insurgents and local security forces also died in the clash. the president has declared two days of national mourning in response. it's the latest deadly incident in an ongoing battle between the west african country and an islamist insurgency. tens of thousands of people hoping to spend christmas
with theirfamilies in france are facing severe delays as transport strikes enter their 20th day. industrial action against president emmanuel macron's pension reforms is taking a toll on national train services. mr macron called for a truce over christmas, but it was rejected by unions. republican and democratic leaders are still arguing over the rules of president trump's impeachment trial. the democratic party want assurances that their chosen witnesses and documents will be allowed. president trump was formally impeached by the house last week for abuse of power and obstruction of congress. but it's now heading for trial in the senate, where republicans have a majority, so it is unlikely he'll be removed from office. there have been more violent clashes in hong kong between the police and anti—government protesters who've been holding christmas eve rallies in shopping malls and other areas popular with tourists. the city is reeling from its seventh straight month of protests, originally sparked by a now—scrapped extradition bill. the bbc‘sjon donnison reports.
not much evidence of festive cheer in hong kong this year. security forces firing tear gas — once again, squared up to anti—government protesters, doing their best to protect themselves with umbrellas. caught up in the chaos, tourists and families out and about to take in the christmas lights. demonstrators also occupied a number of shopping malls in kowloon. but it soon turned ugly as baton—wielding plain—clothes undercover police moved in. several protesters were arrested and dragged away. others were injured, as officers struggled to restore calm. and all of this on christmas eve. even though today is meant to be a joyful holiday, some of us are in jail.
i think we should remind others that our fight has not ended yet, and we should continue our fight. translation: this year, christmas eve seems to be the time to fight. notjust christmas eve, but also new year's eve. and we will use more festivals in the future to voice our demands until the government response. the government has been forced to make some concessions but these pro—democracy protests have now been going on for seven months. and as the year comes to a close, there is no end in sight. jon donnison, bbc news. in syria, five children are reportedly among the latest casualties of a week—long offensive by syrian government forces, backed by russia, in the mainly rebel—held province of idlib. the operation has caused tens of thousands of people to flee towards the turkish border and doctors in the area have warned that they're struggling to deal with mass casualties. sebastian usher, bbc
world service middle east editor, has the latest. president assad has vowed time and again that he will take back every inch of the country. at one point that seemed unlikely. that seemed simply him — just rhetoric. but now, it is now true in a sense — he has 70% of the country under his control, idlib have been pushing and pushing. people will remember earlier this year there was major concern it would be a government offensive that would cause a new humanitarian catastrophe. that was stopped when russia and turkey brokered a ceasefire. that has been in place for several months, but has been broken time and time again. what we have seen in the last week is a fully new offensive being launched. it is part of a drive to take back the whole of the country and also a strategic attempt by the syrian
government to take full control of the main highway that runs through the country, the m5, which, as part of that ceasefire deal, was supposed to be made safe — the militias were supposed to be pulled back. the fighting happening now is going a bit more deep into idlib in the area, so that is the main strategic aim at the moment of the government. but again, the tactics used are to bombard villagers from the air, from artillery, people running scared, tens of thousands moved towards the turkish border. monitors say around that 80 civilians have died in the past few days, today as you're saying, a school was hit, five children and two women were held. pope francis has been celebrating the traditional christmas eve mass at the vatican, where he told the faithful that god loves everyone — "even the worst of us" — and urged them to give thanks. this is the seventh christmas season of pope francis's pontificate. in his speech, he also urged people not to let the church's failings — including its efforts to come to grips with continuing sexual abuse scandals around the world — lead them away from accepting
god's love. thousands of people took part in the service, including children chosen from countries including venezuela, iraq and uganda — a clear gesture from a pope who often focuses on the plight of migrants and victims of war. on christmas day, pope francis will deliver his biannual message and blessing from the central balcony of st peter's basilica. stay with us on bbc news. still to come: prince philip is discharged from hospital. he's now spending christmas with the queen at their country home. the world of music's been paying tribute to george michael who's died from suspected heart failure at the age of 53. he sold well over 100 million albums in a career spanning more than three decades. the united states troops have been trying to overthrow the dictatorship of general manuel noriega. the pentagon says it's failed in its principle objective — to capture noriega and take him to the united states
to face drugs charges. the hammer and sickle was hastily taken away. in its place, the russian flag was hoisted over what is now no longer the soviet union, but the commonwealth of independent states. day broke slowly over lockerbie, over the cockpit of pan am's maid of the seas, nose down 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 10 days ago. this is bbc news. the latest headlines: hundreds of families are spending christmas day in emergency shelters, as australia's bushfires continue to burn out of control. police in hong kong clash with pro—democracy protesters during demonstrations in shopping centres popular with christmas tourists.
builders around the world have been gathering in bethlehem, revered by christians is the birthplace of jesus. thousands converged on the town in the israeli—occupied west bank with festivities taking in and around the church of the nativity. barbara plett usher sent this report. this is bethlehem's time of year, when it invites the world to celebrate this story of a humble birth that changed history. the midnight mass is held in the grandeur of the church built a monthly place werejesus christ is said to have been born, now located in the israeli—occupied west bank. it has been a difficulty for palestinians, christmas is a time for hope. me it arouses much tenderness in all of us to make us smile once again. even if it does
not solve all our problems, the child will certainly make us happier. for bethlehem's christians, there was a special gift from the vatican, a splinter of wood believed to be from jesus' manger. it's small, but the big three community decimated by waves of immigration. and bethlehem is enjoying its busiest tourist season in decades. a bright spot despite dark times for the palestinian economy. earlier, the palestinian economy. earlier, the procession of christian leaders from jerusalem crossed into bethlehem through an israeli army check point, in a concrete barrier that separates the two cities. in the holy land, the christmas cheer is always wrapped in political realities. as a merry christmas here, lots of sparkling lights and happy people, but in this town and in this region the situation is fragile. so perhaps the only permanent thing is faith. the faith
of things hoped for, if not yet seen. barbara plett usher, bbc news, bethlehem. a british man and his two children have died after drowning in a swimming pool at a resort in the costa del sol, in the south of spain. it's believed a 9—year—old girl got into difficulties in the water and her brother and father attempted to rescue her, but drowned. let's hearfrom fernando torres, a reporterfor the spanish newspaper diario sur, who has been at the resort where the deaths took place for much of the day. we were told that it indeed was the girl with the troubles, perhaps with the pumps. the brother tried to help her and they had troubles too. it wasn't nobody at the resort but a recent manager told me that they don't need to because the pool is too little to need a lifeguard there. so police are investigating
the incident at the moment. divers were trying to find clues but they didn't at the first look. the investigation is still open so they don't really know what happened so far. it was an operation codenamed christmas cargo and remains one of the most extraordinary stories of the korean war. hundreds of thousands of un forces and north korean refugees found themselves trapped at a port called hungnam in december 1950. hundreds of us ships became involved in the rescue operation. there are thought to be over a million descendants of those helped that day, including the current president of south korea, moonjae—in. laura bicker has the story. it was a race against time. the chinese army was advancing,
thousands of un forces and north korean refugees were trapped at hungnam. their fear of the communist regime... there was only one way out, by sea. translation: it was war. we knew we would die if we didn't get on board a ship. we didn't think of anything else. we didn't know where the ship was going. it didn't matter. by the us navy saved as many as they could. 100,000 north koreans left hungnam that day, never to return. translation: we were bundled under blanket, so many were on the ship. we were all jammed blanket, so many were on the ship. we were alljammed together. a shower from we were alljammed together. a showerfrom a we were alljammed together. a shower from a wave washed over me and my mum, we feared we were going to drown and become a see spirit. history's the successful evacuation. no—one died on board. instead there
was new life. five babies were born by the time the ship docked in the south of south korea. this man was one of them. translation: my mother was not prepared to give birth when she boarded the ship stop so when i was born the midwife had to use her teeth to cost my umbilical cord. it was december the 25th, christmas day, so people said the fact that i didn't die and was born was a christmas miracle. the americans didn't know any korean names, so affectionately called each baby kimchi after the fermented cabbage dish. mr lee was kimchi numberfive. the day before christmas the third division is evacuated. rescuing civilians had never been part of the us navy's original plan.|j civilians had never been part of the us navy's original plan. i think does the miracle of this whole story, is that so many people came together, they saw these refugees there, they were north korean refugees, technically the enemy, but
you couldn't help but feel sorry for them. so somehow itjust happened that these guys listened to their better angels and did, what i'd like to say, the right thing for the right reasons in a very difficult situation. after the last vote leave sure the order is given and the entire port blown up. the north korean port was destroyed by the americans as they left. thousands still died. but those who got the chance to live forever grateful to have been part of this very special christmas cargo. laura bicker, bbc news, seoul. us presidential candidate michael bloomberg has said that his campaign "unknowingly" used prison workers to call voters on his behalf. the billionaire democrat said he had cut ties with a vendor which operates two call centres in state jails. mr bloomberg said he learned about the company's use of prison
labour only after receiving a call from a reporter. the queen's husband prince philip has returned to join the royal family in time for christmas after leaving hospital in london. the duke of edinburgh, who's 98, spent four nights in the king edward the seventh hospital on the advice of his doctor. 0ur royal correspondent, nicholas witchell has more. afterfour nights in the king edward vii hospital, the duke emerged this morning and walked, slowly but without assistance, to the waiting vehicle. there's been no information about the reason for his stay at the hospital. in the past, he's been treated there for bladder and chest infections. whatever the nature of this latest episode, the duke, who's 98 now, has clearly satisfied his doctors that he's well enough to return home. a helicopter took him from buckingham palace to the queen's sandringham estate where the royal family is gathering for christmas. in her christmas broadcast tomorrow, the queen will talk about a past year which has felt "quite bumpy". she doesn't clarify
what it is that's been bumpy, which will inevitably invite speculation. these are her words. talking about reconciliation, she says: the obvious conclusion is that this is a coded message from britain's head of state, urging the country to try to move on from the divisions of the brexit debate. but the reference to a bumpy year may also be taken to refer to events within her own family after a year which began with the duke of edinburgh's road accident, just outside the sandringham estate, which continued with the duke and duchess of sussex complaining about the problems, as they see them, of being in the public eye and which culminated, most recently, with the controversies surrounding prince andrew, which forced him to step back from public duties. for the queen, who arrived norfolk at the end of last week, there is at least the reassurance
of knowing that her husband will be with her over christmas. absent, though, are the sussexes. they‘ re in canada. this is their online christmas card — a picture of them with their 7—month—old son, archie. but the other principal members of the family will all be there. this was george a few days ago, stirring a christmas pudding with his father, grandfather and great grandmother. the royal family's christmas is ready. nicholas witchell, bbc news. justin bieber is making a comeback — he's announced his first new album in five years and teased a new song called yummy, which is due to be released in the new year. the 25—year—old pop star unveiled the news to his 123 million instagram followers on christmas eve with the hashtag bieber2020. the singer says he will go on a us tour between may and september 2020. he has not unveiled a new album since purpose in 2015.
now if you're hoping that santa might deliver the latest tesla — the cyber truck this christmas but it's price tag is a little above your budget, then this might be the answer. it's a mock tesla built by a russian car enthusiast and it's been turning heads on the streets of moscow. it's based on an old lada hatchback that he bought forjust over a dollar. it's not as environmentally—friendly as elon musk‘s creation and still has its old engine powering it. since the real cyber truck was unveiled last month tesla said they've received more than 200,000 pre—orders. as for the mock tesla it's pre—order book is currently empty. well, as you can imagine santa claus is well on his way delivering presents around the world. the canadian and american defence agency norad as usual has been providing updates
on sa nta's progress. a very merry christmas to you all. thank for watching. hello there. well it doesn't look like there is going to be any snowfall on christmas day, but because it will be quite cold there could be a little bit of festive frost to start the day. and the reason for the settled cold weather for christmas day is this ridge of high pressure which will settle things down, bring light winds and plenty of sunshine. it is short lived because this next area of low pressure will come swooping in for boxing day to bring us all a spell of wet and windy weather. you will notice is the wet and windy weather arrives it will push the christmas day blue cold air away from our shores and it will be replaced by the oranges and yellows, indicating very mild conditions, particularly at the end of the week and into the weekend. but as we start with mist a, very early on there will be one or two showers around, but these
will fade as the ridge of high pressure builds in they will settle down with clearing skies for many and with lighter winds will turn quite cold. temperatures close to freezing in many places, with a touch of frost in places, maybe little bits of mist and fog, too. so christmas day is looking cold, but dry, 20 of sunshine, a little bit of festive frost to start the day in places. so a dry, sunny day for most, a little bit about check—out for north—west england, perhaps northern and western scotland whether could be the odd shower, but even these will be feeding through the day. sojoan walley feeding across the far west late in the day across the far west late in the day a class does to moving ahead of that with the system. but most places will see the sunshine continue, but it will be a chilly day, particularly in the south, we have been used to tempt them single figure swimmers. as the temperatures fall away late in the day and also could become a problem across central, northern, and eastern england, so bear that in mind if you are heading out on the roads. it won't last long we think because the wind started to pick up ahead of
this weather system then the fog will turn to live. it will turn wet and windy by the end of the night across western areas. temperatures also rising. it will be quite a chilly one across the north and east of the uk. a very different feel to the weather for boxing day. we're back to the theme, this area of low pressure bringing rain and strong winds, northern ireland, wales, south—west of england, pushing north on eastwood through the day. could start chilly and dry across the north and east by the rain and wind will arrive. and the light there, we could see some transient snow over the higher ground of northern england and into the scottish mountains. this temperatures claiming to double figures in the south. still quite chilly in the north and east. but as we head through the weekend to friday and indeed the weekend, it's set to turn much milder thanks to southerly winds, temperatures close to the mid teens celsius in places. merry christmas.
this is bbc news. the headlines: hundreds of australian families are spending the day in emergency shelters as bushfires continue to burn out of control. the nation's firefighters are continuing to battle the worst bushfire disasters in years. nearly 1,000 homes have been destroyed, and another extreme heatwave is due to set in later this week. pro—democracy protesters in hong kong have clashed with police in shopping malls. some activists threw umbrellas and other objects at police, who responded by beating protesters with batons and firing tear gas. demonstrations continued until midnight, when protesters extended christmas day greetings to each other and police officers. russian and turkish officials have been discussing how to stop an escalation of fighting in the syrian province of idlib. reports say five children are among the dead after a week—long offensive by syrian government forces in the mainly rebel—held province. the operation has caused tens of thousands of people to flee.