POPE WATCH: Stormy weather may cut short Tacloban visit

AP News
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Posted: Jan 16, 2015 10:57 PM
POPE WATCH: Stormy weather may cut short Tacloban visit

Pope Francis is visiting the Philippine city devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, on a two-country Asia tour that also took him to Sri Lanka. Here are some glimpses of his trip as it unfolds:

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WEATHER PROBLEMS

The pope may cut short his visit to Tacloban because of an approaching tropical storm.

Those who waited for his outdoor Mass in the morning got soaked by rain, and the winds started kicking up as left. A plastic raincoat he wore over his vestments puffed up in the wind during his open-air motorcade.

The weather bureau has raised the storm alert level for Leyte and nearby provinces.

Tropical Storm Mekkhala, with maximum sustained winds of 100 kilometers (60 miles) per hour and gusts up to 130 kph (80 mph), i is expected to make landfall on Samar Island, about 62 kilometers (39 miles) northeast of Tacloban, later Saturday.

The winds are powerful enough to uproot trees and blow away thatched roofs common in the region, the weather bureau said.

— By Oliver Teves, AP writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: http://twitter.com/seveto

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THE TYPHOON

Some facts about Typhoon Haiyan, which struck on Nov. 8, 2013:

— Dead or missing: 7,300 people

— Fierce winds and 7-meter (21-foot) waves leveled villages

— One million houses destroyed

— 16 million coconut trees, a major source of livelihood, knocked down

— Worst-hit city of Tacloban is recovering. Shopping malls, hotels and offices have reopened, with cars, taxis and motorcycles clogging downtown streets.

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RAINY WELCOME FOR POPE IN TACLOBAN

A rain-drenched but lively crowd wearing yellow and white raincoats welcomed Pope Francis in the typhoon-ravage central Philippine city of Tacloban early Saturday, chanting "Papa Francesco, Viva il Papa!"

Police said about 150,000 people were allowed into an enclosed area near the airport where the pope is celebrating a Mass while tens of thousands more are lined up outside waiting for a chance to get in.

The crowd cheered loudly at the sight of the plane approaching and waved toward the aircraft as it taxied on the tarmac. Dozens of dancing youth in colorful attire, some swaying atop bamboo stilts, smiled broadly as the pope drove by on his popemobile, waving at them.

Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon on record to hit land, has left more than 7,300 dead or missing.

— By Oliver Teves, AP writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: http://twitter.com/seveto

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QUICKQUOTE: "HELP US FORGET AND ACCEPT"

"I hope the pope can help us forget and help us accept that our loved ones are gone. We still cry often and don't talk about what happened."

— Joan Cator, a 23-year-old woman waiting for the pope in Tacloban. She lost two aunts and four nephews and nieces when Typhoon Haiyan hit in November, 2013.

— By Jim Gomez, AP writer, Tacloban, Philippines, Twitter: http://twitter.com/JimSGomez

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20-YEAR — AND NOW 16-HOUR — WAIT FOR POPE

Jessica Panis wept in 1995 when she couldn't see Pope John Paul II in Manila because her family was too poor to afford the trip to the Philippine capital.

With Pope Francis is coming to her city of Tacloban on Saturday, nothing can stop the bubbly 41-year-old toy store clerk from seeing the pontiff — not a looming storm, not the long hours of waiting, not even the call of nature.

"There are so many things to be thankful for. Our house was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan but we didn't lose anybody," Panis said.

She also wanted to thank the pope for traveling a long distance to comfort typhoon survivors like her.

Clad in red boots and carrying a raincoat, jacket, scarf, sandwiches and a tarpaulin to sleep on, Panis walked several kilometers (miles) with family and friends to a field near Tacloban's airport where Francis will celebrate Mass. She arrived 16 hours ahead of schedule.

"Actually, I'm wearing a diaper," she said as she waited in a long line for a public portable toilet. "But I'd rather not use it now because it will surely be a long wait."

By Jim Gomez, AP writer, Tacloban, Philippines, Twitter: http://twitter.com/JimSGomez

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A GIFT WITH A TYPHOON HAIYAN LINK

As a gift to the pope, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III presented a wooden Madonna made from the wood of a tree that was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan, the Vatican spokesman said.

Francis is scheduled to visit the typhoon-hit region on Saturday, celebrate a Mass and have lunch with survivors. The November 2013 disaster leveled entire villages and left more than 7,300 people dead or missing.

— By Ken Moritsugu, AP writer, Manila, Philippines, Twitter: http:// twitter: twitter.com/kmorit

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QUICKQUOTE: "CAUGHT UP IN MATERIALISM"

"While all too many people live in dire poverty, others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality."

— Pope Francis to a crowd of about 20,000 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila.

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THE POPE POPS A SURPRISE VISIT

 Some 300 children at a Manila center for street kids got the surprise of their lives on Friday when Pope Francis showed up at their door.

 The pontiff snuck in a visit to the Anak-Tnk Foundation in Manila's Intramuros district after celebrating Mass at the nearby Manila Cathedral.

  Pictures of the visit showed Francis surrounded by children reaching out for his hand. In one photo, he was seated among them, smiling as he carried two younger children on his lap.

  "This is awesome ... he gave me a huge warm hug," 10-year-old Alvin was quoted as saying in a statement released by Anak-Tnk.

  Last September, the center launched a campaign called "Even us?" mailing thousands of letters to Francis in hopes that he could meet with the children.

  "Those children, the poorest among the poor are for sure the most vulnerable victims of our society," the Rev. Matthieu Dauchez, the foundation's director, told Francis. "But they remain the masters of joy, as one can see on their smiling faces."

  The center, founded in 1998 by a Jesuit priest, helps homeless children and those living in the slums.

      — By Teresa Cerojano, AP writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: http://twitter.com/mtmanila

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PAPAL SWAG

Popes always bring along gifts for the hundreds of dignitaries they greet during trips, and Pope Francis is no different.

In Sri Lanka, Francis handed out small bronze medallions with an engraved replica of the Our Lady of Madhu shrine that he visited in the north. The shrine became a place of refuge during the country's 25-year civil war.

The medallion for the Philippines features a replica of the Santo Nino statue of the infant Jesus, which dates from the time of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and is one of the most important icons in the Philippines. Francis' final Mass of the trip falls on the feast of Santo Nino on Sunday.

— By Nicole Winfield, AP writer, Manila, Philippines — Twitter: http://twitter.com/nwinfield