CASTELGANDOLFO, AUG. 13, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Pope Benedict XVI called for prayers and assured his solidarity with the victims of several natural disasters in Asia during his weekly Angelus in Castelgandolfo.
“My thoughts go in this moment to the peoples of Asia, especially to those of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China, who have been severely hit by violent rains, as well as to the people of North-west Iran, who have been struck by a violent earthquake. These events have caused numerous deaths and injuries, thousands of displaced persons and extensive damage,” he said.
Monsoon rains have flooded most of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, where the number of dead has risen to 85. In China, a powerful typhoon struck Shanghai with 120 km an hour winds. Two million people were evacuated from their homes and dozens of people so far have been killed.
Iran, however suffered the greatest loss of life among the natural disasters that struck the Asian continent after two earthquakes near the city of Tabiz. Reports have confirmed that over 250 people have died along with over 2,000 injured. The number of casualties is expected to rise. The quakes hit three towns in the province of East Azerbaijan where an estimated six villages have been completely leveled while other towns sustained severe damage.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that Saturday’s first quake at 4:53 p.m. (1223 GMT) had a magnitude of 6.4 and struck 60 kilometers northeast of the city of Tabriz at a depth of 9.9 kilometers.
The second quake with a magnitude of 6.3 struck 11 minutes later, the U.S.G.S. reported. Its epicenter was 48 kilometers northeast of Tabriz at a depth of 9.8 kilometers.
Iran is located on seismic fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. It experiences at least one earthquake every day on average, although the vast majority are so small they go unnoticed.
In 2003, some 26,000 people were killed by a magnitude 6.6 quake that flattened the historic southeastern city of Bam.
The Holy Father called on the faithful to pray for those affected by the natural disasters. “I invite you to unite yourselves to my prayer for all those who have lost their lives, and for all the people who are being tried by such devastating calamities. May our solidarity and our support not be lacking to these, our brothers and sisters.” the pope said.