In a telegram addressed to Cardinal Jaime Sin, archbishop of Manila, the Pope assures his spiritual closeness to "all those affected by this tragedy," and appeals for a great surge of solidarity "at this difficult time for the nation."

So far, 20,000 people have been evacuated as a result of the destruction caused by the typhoon and rains; 2,000 homes have been destroyed, and agricultural losses are said to be in the millions of dollars.

Among the latest victims were a 3-year-old girl and her grandparents, buried by a landslide.