VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As fires continued to burn on the Hawaiian island of Maui and as the death toll continued to rise, Pope Francis offered his prayers and his encouragement to firefighters and rescue workers.

“His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and the destruction caused by the wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui,” said a telegram sent by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, to Cardinal-designate Christoph Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States.

The pope, he said, “expresses his solidarity with all those suffering from this tragedy, especially those whose loved ones have died or are missing.”

Officials said late Aug. 10 that the death toll from the fires, which began Aug. 8, had reached 55, and Gov. Josh Green told reporters that number was expected to rise as a search through devastated property and neighborhoods continued.

Pope Francis offered “the assurance of prayers for the dead, injured and displaced, as well as for the first responders and emergency personnel,” Cardinal Parolin wrote. “As a sign of his spiritual closeness, the Holy Father willingly invokes upon all the people of Maui Almighty God’s blessings of strength and peace.”