(UPDATE) A powerful tornado with winds of up to 200 miles (320 kilometers) per hour pulverized an Oklahoma City suburb
VATICAN CITY, Italy - Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday, December 8, issued a call for "brotherly solidarity" with the Philippines after a typhoon killed at least 500 people and left tens of thousands homeless in the south of what is Asia's bastion of Catholicism.
The pontiff said during his weekly Angelus address that he felt "close to the people of the Philippines affected" by Typhoon Pablo (International name: Bopha), which forecasters said would turn back towards the country and hit again early Sunday.
"I pray for the victims, their families and the many homeless," he said, adding that he hoped faith and Christian charity would help the country get through the ordeal.
The Philippines is Asia's largest Catholic outpost, with 80 percent of the population adherents to the faith thanks to more than three centuries of Spanish rule that began in the 1500s.
At least 548 people were killed and about 500 others are missing after Bopha smashed into the east coast of the southern island of Mindanao with gusts of up to 210 kilometres (130 miles) an hour on Tuesday, December 4.
Around 212,000 other people have also been left homeless, according to the civil defense office.
To date, at least 1,077,541 families or 5,317,275 people have been affected by the deadly Typhoon "Pablo," according to the estimates of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
OCHA is coordinating an international humanitarian assistance to the Philippines. To date, various foreign donors have already pledged to provide financial assistance to the humanitarian response.
On Saturday, December 8, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III declared a national state of calamity. On the same day, the state weather service said the typhoon would slam into the northern tip of the main island of Luzon early Sunday, bringing heavy rainfall to the area. - Agence France-Presse