08/18/2010, 00.00
VATICAN - PAKISTAN

Benedict XVI's appeal for flood victims in Pakistan

The pope asks for solidarity and concrete support for the country prostrated by monsoon rains. About 20 million people have been affected, 1,600 were killed. Risk from hunger and disease.

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI has appealed to Christians and the international community to show solidarity and support to victims of floods in Pakistan.

Speaking at the end of today’s general audience at Castel Gandolfo, in front of 2,000 pilgrims, the pope said his thoughts turned first to the "dear people of Pakistan" hit by " severe flooding" that has caused "numerous victims and left many families homeless”.

He then added: "As I entrust to the merciful goodness of God all those who are tragically gone, I express my spiritual closeness to their families and all who suffer because of this disaster. Our solidarity and the concrete support of the international community must not be lacking to these our sorely tried brothers and sisters!".

For over three weeks entire regions of Pakistan have been hit by monsoon rains of exceptional intensity, destroying homes and crops. It is estimated that at least one fifth of the country is under water, more than 20 million people have been affected and at least 1,600 are dead.

The commitment of the government and army, as well as international organizations has been hampered by damage to infrastructure: roads and bridges were washed away or are blocked by landslides. According to some NGOs at least 6 million people need emergency aid, while hundreds of thousands have not received anything yet, because of communication difficulties.

People have lost everything in the disaster - crops, seeds, agricultural machinery, houses - there is the risk of hunger and epidemics.

Last week the UN made an appeal for 459 million dollars for emergency aid. So far 40% of the funds has been collected.

Even Caritas Italy has opened a subscription for emergency aid.
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