Pope praying for Hurricane Irma, Mexico earthquake victims

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Vatican City, Sep 9 (IANS/AKI) Pope Francis on Friday vsaid he was praying for the victims of the tropical storm, Hurricane Irma, that has wrought death and destruction in the Caribbean this week as well as for the victims of a lethal earthquake in Mexico.

“I express spiritual closeness to all those who are suffering,” Francis said at the end of a beatification mass in Villavicencio city in Colombia, during a five-day visit to the South African country.

“I am praying for all those who lost their lives as well as for their families,” he said, adding that he was “closely following and with my heart the developments of Hurricane Irma”.

As in the case of the magnitude 8.2 earthquake that on Thursday killed over 30 people in Mexico’s Oaxaca and Chiapas states, the Caribbean storm “is leaving many victims and huge material damage in its wake,” he said.

“Thousands of people have been left homeless,” he noted.

Hurricane Irma has left a trail of destruction in the Caribbean, affecting an estimated 1.2 million people.

At least 20 people are known to have died so far and the US federal emergency agency has warned it will “devastate” either Florida or neighbouring states when it hits America this weekend.

The Alitalia plane that transported Pope Francis to Colombia on Wednesday for his official visit changed flight path to avoid Irma, Vatican officials said.

Irma has been downgraded to a category four storm, but officials warn that it remains “extremely dangerous”.

–IANS/AKI

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