International Relief Urged for Quake Victims

Pope Appeals for Solidarity for Central America International Relief Urged for Quake Victims

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2001 ( .-
As soon as he heard about the devastating earthquake that stuck Central America, John Paul II raised his voice to appeal for the international community´s solidarity.

The Holy Father made his urgent call when he met with tens of thousands of pilgrims, gathered in St. Peter´s Square for the traditional midday recitation of the Angelus.

The Pope said in a strong voice: «In the last few hours news reached us of the disastrous earthquake that occurred in Central America, causing numerous deaths, hundreds of wounded, and great material ruin, especially in El Salvador.»

El Salvador´s National Emergency Committee (COEN) reported that 176 were verified dead, victims of the earthquake, and the number of wounded rose to at least 350. Some 1,200 people are still missing. Herbert Chinchilla, COEN´s operations director, said that the number of dead and wounded might rise, as rescue and search activities continue.

Spain became the first European country to respond to calls for help with a search and rescue team preparing to leave for El Salvador after an earthquake of 7.6 magnitude shook the region Saturday, CNN reported. The quake was centered about 110 kilometers (65 miles) south-southwest of San Miguel, El Salvador.

El Salvador, with a total of 5.6 million inhabitants, is the country most affected by the earthquake. The earthquake also caused two deaths in Guatemala, including that of a 2-year-old girl. Eight people were wounded. There are no reports of victims or material damage in the rest of Central America.

People in El Salvador were panicking, as the earthquake was followed by 200 tremors, official sources reported.

«I wish to express my spiritual closeness to the people stricken by the earthquake in that region I so love,» the Holy Father said. «While raising a heartfelt prayer to the Lord for the victims, I send warm words of encouragement to the survivors, hoping to awaken the concern of the international community in coming to their aid.»

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