Pope Aids Flood- and Ash-Drenched Ecuador

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 26, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI sent emergency aid to 11 dioceses in Ecuador affected by flooding as well as volcanic ash.



The Pope made his contribution through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which coordinates and promotes the world's Catholic institutions of assistance and volunteering.

After praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square last Sunday, Benedict XVI launched an appeal for Ecuador "inviting everyone to show fraternal solidarity so that the people of these areas -- who are experiencing moments of anguish and tribulation in the wake of devastating floods and the eruption of the Tungurahua volcano -- may, as soon as possible, return to the normality of everyday life."

Heavy rains falling throughout the country since mid-January have caused some of the worst floods in its history and have affected more than 60,000 people, according to estimates by Ecuador's Civil Defense.

Moreover, the volcano Tungurahua, which means "throat of fire" in the local language, has been spewing ash and gases intermittently since late last year, but activity has escalated this month. In recent weeks, several nearby communities were covered with ash, and crops have been ruined in the agriculturally rich area. Thousands of residents were also forced to evacuate.