04/06/2009, 00.00
VATICAN - ITALY
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Pope: Condolences for earthquake victims in Abruzzo; encouragement for emergency workers

In the telegram sent to the bishop of L'Aquila, Benedict XVI prays for the victims, especially the children. The tentative death toll is 50, including 5 children. Thousands of buildings have been damaged. It is estimated that about 45-50,000 are homeless.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI expresses "condolences" for the "dramatic news" of the earthquake in L'Aquila and Abruzzo, and "encouragement for the survivors and those who in various ways are exerting themselves in aid operations." In a telegram sent to the archbishop of L'Aquila, Giuseppe Molinari, the pope asks the prelate to communicate to the population his "heartfelt participation in the suffering of the dear populations struck by the tragic event."

An earthquake of 5.8 on the Richter scale took place at 3:32 a.m. (local time), with its epicenter in Abruzzo, about 10 kilometers from L'Aquila. The tentative victim tally, which is certainly destined to increase, is 50 dead, hundreds injured, and thousands displaced. The victims include at least five children.

In the telegram, signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, the pope pledges his "fervent prayers for the victims, in particular the children," and "calls upon the Lord for comfort for their relatives."

Aid operations began immediately in the region, but they are obstructed by the constant aftershocks that threaten to collapse the damaged buildings. Hundreds of buildings have already crumbled, and thousands are too badly damaged to be used. There could be 45-50,000 people displaced.

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