(Photo: REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)
As relief efforts are on the way to help survivors of the devastating Typhoon Haiyan, believed to have killed over 10,000 people in the Phillipines, Pope Francis has sent an aid contribution of $150,000 to families and victims pleading to the world for help.
"Deeply saddened by the destruction and loss of life caused by the super typhoon, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this storm and its aftermath," read a telegram by Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State.
"He is especially mindful of those who mourn the loss of their loved ones and of those who have lost their homes. In praying for all the people of the Philippines, the Holy Father likewise offers encouragement to the civil authorities and emergency personnel as they assist the victims of this storm. He invokes divine blessings of strength and consolation for the Nation."
While officials on Sunday estimated that over 10,000 people might have been killed over the weekend, so far the Philippine military has been able to confirm only 942 dead, The Associated Press reported, with the city of Tacloban the worst hit area in the eastern seaboard.
Survivors of the disaster are pleading for food, water and other essentials, with close to 9.7 million people in 41 provinces affected by the typhoon, one of the most powerful ones in recorded history.
"Please tell my family I'm alive," said Erika Mae Karakot, a survivor from Tacloban's Leyte island. "We need water and medicine because a lot of the people we are with are wounded. Some are suffering from diarrhea and dehydration due to shortage of food and water."
The Philippine National Red Cross, one of the main organizations providing relief to the region, reported that the people were not prepared for a storm of such gravity.
"Imagine America, which was prepared and very rich, still had a lot of challenges at the time of Hurricane Katrina, but what we had was three times more than what they received," offered Gwendolyn Pang, the group's executive director.
"We're afraid that it's going to get dangerous in town because relief goods are trickling in very slow," added Bobbie Womack, an American missionary and longtime Tacloban resident. "I know it's a massive, massive undertaking to try to feed a town of over 150,000 people. They need to bring in shiploads of food."
Over 80 percent of the Filipino population is said to be Roman Catholic, making it the biggest Christian country in Asia.
Msgr Pedro Quitorio, media director of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said that between 85 to 95 percent of the homes in the parish of Borongan were destroyed, which was the typhoon's first landfall.
"In Borongan, we have no concrete reports because all communication lines are down and all power lines are down, and we could not get through to get the exact situation," Quitorio said.
The money donated by the Vatican will be distributed by the local Church in the regions most affected by the disaster, a press release by the Holy See noted, and will be used to support aid work for the assistance of displaced persons from the flooded areas.