In a telegram sent on the Pope's behalf by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano to Archbishop Fernando Capalla, president of the Philippine bishops' conference, the Holy Father expressed his spiritual closeness to the families of the deceased and to people involved in rescue operations.

More than 1,400 have died or disappeared in the wake of last week's tropical storm Winnie and typhoon Nanmadol, according to a report issued today by the authorities.

In statements on Vatican Radio, Archbishop Antonio Franco, apostolic nuncio in the Philippines, said it is still too early to give an accurate assessment of the human and material losses suffered. But he confirmed "that some villages have been totally devastated. People have lost everything."

In the face of this situation, "international solidarity is beginning to mobilize and there is great participation by the whole country" in aid operations, he said.