Pope prays for Philippine flood victims as toll rises

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 18 2011 07:51 PM | Updated as of Dec 19 2011 06:40 PM

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday prayed for the victims of mammoth floods unleashed in the southern Philippines by tropical storm Washi that have killed hundreds of people.

"I pray for the victims, many of them children, for the people without homes and for the many missing," the pope said in an address in Saint Peter's Square after his weekly Angelus prayer before thousands of pilgrims.

"I would like to assure the people of the southern Philippines of my closeness to them," he added.

The Red Cross on Sunday said the death toll from the floods was now at 652 with 808 others missing. The devastated port cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in Mindanao island accounted for most of the deaths.

Entire villages were swept away when the storm struck on Saturday.