Pope expresses condolences to typhoon victims in Philippines

 Manila (AsiaNews) – The Pope expressed his condolences to the families of victims of floods and landslides that recently battered the Philippines.

In a telegram sent by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, John Paul II said he was "deeply saddened by news of the great loss of life" that resulted from floods on Luzon Island (northern Philippines).

In the message, which was sent to Mgr Fernando Capalla, Bishop of Davao and President of the Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, the Pontiff said he would pray "for the victims and their families" and ask "Almighty God to grant peace and consolation to the homeless, the suffering and those involved in the difficult task of relief".

So far typhoons Unding, Violeta, Winnie e Yoyong have killed 495 people; another 508 are missing.

The National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) told AsiaNews that 11 dioceses have been hit leaving 160,000 families homeless. In cooperation with Caritas Philippines, NASSA has been coordinating the relief effort and so far has provided 1,000 truck-loads of rice and other essential items. However, medicines, clothing and construction material for rebuilding are still desperately needed.

In the meantime, General Nakar residents (a town on Luzon's north-eastern coast) are facing another emergency. Flooding disturbed cobras forcing them out of their lairs and onto roads and the surrounding areas

"They [residents] found that cobras are all over General Nakar now," said Corazon Soliman, Filipino Social Welfare Secretary.

Health authorities have had to dispatch a special team to the town with anti-venom serum to prevent deadly snake bites. (LF)

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