A resident checks his submerged house in Manila. CNS photosCASTEL GANDOLFO, ITALY – Pope Benedict XVI has asked Catholics around the world to pray and offer material assistance to flood victims in the Philippines and China and to people affected by an earthquake in northwestern Iran.

The natural disasters have caused death and injury and left thousands of people homeless, the pope said on Aug 12 after reciting the Angelus in the courtyard of the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo.

“I ask you to join me in prayer for those who lost their lives and for all the people so harshly tried by such devastating calamities. May these brothers and sisters of ours not lack our solidarity and support,” the pope said.

Flooding caused by days of torrential rains forced more than a quarter million people from their homes in parts of Manila and provinces surrounding the Philippine capital. News reports on Aug 13 said more than 90 people had lost their lives and more rain was expected.

In China, Typhoon Haikui brought heavy rains and flooding to Jiangxi province in the eastern part of the country. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced.

In Iran, two strong earthquakes struck on Aug 11, leaving at least 300 people dead and 2,000 injured. The quakes destroyed entire villages in the northwest.

CHARIS, the Singapore archdiocese’s umbrella body for overseas humanitarian aid, and other Church groups are responding to the disaster in various ways.

CHARIS, in a statement, said it is in touch with Caritas Philippines for regular updates on the situation, and will be donating one million pesos (S$29,600) to Caritas Philippines for the purchase and distribution of crucial essentials.

These include drinking water, food, cooking utensils, medicine, hygiene and thermal kits, and other aid for the flood victims. CHARIS is also looking into obtaining shelter kits comprising sleeping mats, blankets and mosquito nets for shipment to the Philippines.

In addition, CHARIS is conducting an appeal for donations to its Humanitarian Aid Fund for victims of the Philippine floods, the Iranian earthquake and other natural disasters.

It is also organising a special Mass with the Filipino community for the flood victims. This will be held at Novena Church on Sunday, Aug 26 at 11 am.