.- Indonesia has been rocked by simultaneous catastrophes this week, leaving hundreds dead and many others displaced. Pope Benedict XVI appealed today for international aid to those stricken there and those displaced by flooding in Benin, Africa, during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.
Mantawai Island, one of the thousands of islands that make up the southeast Asian nation of Indonesia, was slammed by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami on Oct. 25. News reports vary greatly on the number of deaths caused by the disaster. One local official told Reuters on Oct. 27 that the official number of dead is 282, with 411 people missing.
Not even 24 hours after the tsunami, volcanic activity began on the separate island of Java, sending "searing gas and molten lava into the sky on at least 10 occasions," according to the Indonesian daily, the Jakarta Globe. The paper reported that 25 people had died and many others had been sickened by the fallout. At least 19,000 people were asked to evacuate the area.
Pope Benedict expressed his "deepest sympathy to the families of the victims for the loss of their loved ones" and assured his "closeness in prayer" to all Indonesians.
He also asked for God’s "blessing and comfort" for the people of Benin. According to the United Nations, the country has been hit by twice normal levels of precipitation for the last five weeks. Almost 200,000 people have been left homeless and there are another 600,000 affected by the disaster.
The Pope called on the international community "to strive to supply the aid necessary to alleviate the distress of the people who have suffered these disasters."