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Christian leaders pray for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan

The Archbishop of Canterbury is sending prayers for all those affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. 

Most Revd Justin Welby said the Church of England is standing in solidarity with those who are the 'most vulnerable in this crisis' – children separated from their parents, the sick and injured, the disabled and the elderly – and will 'stand beside the people of the Philippines'.

He says: "We are deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the loss of thousands of lives and of the suffering of millions caused by the storm. Our prayers are with all those who are traumatised by the disaster and in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medical attention. My prayer is that governments, agencies, churches and individuals will respond generously to help the people of the Philippines to recover and rebuild their shattered lives.

"May the victims of this terrible storm know God's comfort and derive strength from their faith."

A national state of calamity has been declared by the President of the Philippines, three days after the super storm flattened entire towns. Ten thousand people are estimated to have been killed in one city alone - hundreds of thousands more have lost their homes and there's no electricity or water in many areas.

A huge international relief effort is underway and the head of the Red Cross in the Philippines is describing the devastation as "absolute bedlam".

Many aid agencies are struggling to get help to all those affected with rescue attempts being hindered by damage to roads and airports. Christian charities such as Tearfund, Christian Aid, and CAFOD are among those helping people who have lost family members and their homes. 

World Vision has also sent a relief team to the country and Sarah Wilson from the charity told Premier's Des Busteed during the News Hour the strength of the storm made survival in some areas impossible:

 One of CAFOD's Caritas partners Rey Barnido has arrived in Tacloban - the city where it's feared 10,000 people were killed. 

He said: "Patients are overflowing from the regional hospital in Tacloban. There are dead people everywhere. There is no water or power. Volunteers are trying to manage the disaster. It looks as if nuclear bombs were dropped." CAFOD has launched an urgent appeal for funds to support the work of its church partners in the country. 

Its Director Chris Bain said: "However distressing the images of devastation and stories of suffering caused by Typhoon Haiyan, we cannot waste time on despair or shock - not when there are still lives to be saved, and communities in such desperate need of help. 

"The best way we can all help is by supporting the charities and church groups who are already operating in the worst hit areas, responding to their immediate needs for food, water and shelter, beginning the hard work of rebuilding the communities that have lost everything, and keeping them constantly in our prayers."

Tearfund partners, including local churches, helped people evacuate their homes and villages in time to avoid the worst of the typhoon.

The charity's Chief Executive Matthew Frost said: "Our partners are in the evacuation centres, giving care to survivors who need food, water, shelter and help to find their loved ones.'

"Pastors, church workers and volunteers are travelling by motorbike to some of the more remote areas over the next few days to find survivors and offer help.  

"Despite difficult conditions, they will travel long distances for three days at a time to reach villages where they expect to find high death counts and many grieving people.

"We know from other major natural disasters like the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 that it can take years for people to rebuild their lives.

"As well as the urgent and practical things like helping people have a roof over their heads, we know that there will be a lot of grief as people come to terms with bereavement.  "We must pray for the thousands of people who are grieving and ask God how he wants each of us to respond to their needs."

The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) has launched an emergency appeal to help survivors. 

SCIAF partners on the ground, Caritas Philippines and Catholic Relief Services, have reached many of the worst affected areas.  

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines-NASSA, said: "We couldn't imagine a storm of this size hitting the Philippines.  

"The casualties are increasing day by day. There are dead bodies everywhere. People are traumatised. "The most urgent needs are for food and water. We really need all the help we can get."

Yesterday, the Pope led pilgrims gathering in St Peter's Square in prayer for those affected by the typhoon. 

Speaking in Rome, Pope Francis said: "I wish to express my closeness to the people of the Philippines and of that region. Unfortunately there are many victims and the damage is enormous. 

"We pray now in silence ... for our brothers and sisters, and we will seek to also send concrete help." Special services were held at Filipino churches across the UK yesterday and the Sacred Heart Church in Kilburn in north London, is having a special mass this Sunday to raise money for victims of the disaster.

Father Irvin Morastil says the support given to members of his congregation who have family in the Philippines is overwhelming. 

The UK Government has announced £6m worth of immediate aid, with a promise of more to come. 

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said it's doing all it can to help: "We sent over some experts over the weekend and they are being followed by a field team that can get out there into some of the worst affected places. "Some of our shelter kits are being loaded onto planes in Dubai for 15,000 families." 

Hundreds of thousands of people had been evacuated before the storm hit, but many evacuation centres, schools, churches and government buildings proved unable to withstand the winds and storm surges. The storm has now made landfall in north Vietnam but has weakened to a tropical storm.

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