Pope Benedict XVI has appealed to the international community to be 'swift and generous' in dispatching aid to people of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan in the aftermath of the weekend's devastating earthquake.
Speaking from the balcony of his office just after the Angelus prayer yesterday, the pontiff said he 'commended to God all those had died' and expressed his 'deepest sympathy to the many thousands who were injured or bereaved.'
Pakistan's president has called for international help to cope as the death toll from the massive quake looks set to exceed 20,000 people. The United Nations has called on governments and NGOs to step up their response.
'It is such a horrendous situation that one cannot imagine. Casualties are increasing by the hour,' said Pakistani interior minister Aftab Sherpao.
International Christian response through Action of Churches Together (ACT) has been swift. In the UK the major church agencies, Christian Aid and Tearfund, have made large pledges of support. CAFOD has a big commitment to post-tsunami work, too.
Muslim Aid and Islamic Aid are making the crisis a huge priority, and are in touch with many of those throughout Britain who have relatives and friends across the Indian subcontinent.
Meanwhile the Catholic Bishops Conference of India is reporting that local Diocesan Social work personnel, along with members of Caritas India, have moved to Srinagar and Baramulla for the relief and rescue works. The Diocesan fathers along with the Mother Teresa Sisters have also joined them.
Bishop Peter Celestine, who is currently in Baramulla, is touring the earthquake affected areas. He has offered condolences to the bereaved family members of victims.
The Bishops Conference says the Jammu and Kashmir tremor and aftershocks have affected the entire region, and people are in 'a state of emotional traumatic experiences'.
A spokesperson added: 'The private and public institutions at work including schools were in a state of fright and fear. Most of the Diocesan schools were having mid term examinations.'
At least two schools in north-west Pakistan are known to have been destroyed by the powerful earthquake, killing around 400 children.