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Pope Francis offers prayers for disaster victims in Indonesia

Pope Francis offered prayers for victims of a strong earthquake and an airplane disaster in the Southeast Asian nation of Indonesia which has already been dealing with several catastrophes since the new year.

“I express my closeness to the population of the Island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, hit by a strong earthquake,” Pope Francis said after the Angelus on Jan. 17, two days after the quake hit the island killing at least 78 people.

“I pray for the deceased, for the wounded, and for all those who lost their homes and jobs. May the Lord console and sustain the efforts of all those who are engaged in bringing aid,” he said.

More than 740 people were injured and over 27,800 left their homes after the 6.2 magnitude quake, Indonesia disaster mitigation agency separately said in a situation report. Some sought refuge in the mountains, while others went to cramped evacuation centers, witnesses said.

Pope Francis had already sent a telegram to Indonesia where he assured the apostolic nuncio in the country and local authorities of his prayers and encouragement to all those involved in the continuing search and rescue efforts.

“Let us pray together for our brothers and sisters of Sulawesi and for the victims of the airplane accident that also happened in Indonesia last Saturday,” the pope said after the Angelus adding reference to the Sriwijaya Air jet disaster where 62 lives were lost on Jan. 9.

Sri Lungdiyanti, 41, family member of a Sriwijaya Air passenger reacts after the Flight SJ182 Boeing 737-500, crashed after taking off, in Tegal, Central Java Province, Indonesia, Jan. 10. (Photo by Antara Foto/Oky Lukmansyah via Reuters)

Straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is regularly hit by earthquakes. In 2018, a devastating 7.5-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami struck the city of Palu, in Sulawesi, killing thousands.

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Just two weeks into the new year, the world’s fourth-most populous country is battling a range of disasters.

Floods in North Sulawesi and South Kalimantan province each have killed at least five this month, while landslides in West Java province have killed at least 28, authorities said.

East Java’s Semeru mountain erupted late on Jan. 16, but there have been no reports of casualties or evacuations.

Dwikorita Karnawati, the head of Indonesia’s meteorological, climatology and geophysical agency extreme weather and other “multi-dangers” of hydrometeorology are forecast in the coming weeks.

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