Ma announced his backing for the visit on Thursday during a visit to a school that was destroyed in mudslides triggered by the deadly storm, the worst to hit the island in 50 years.

Previous visits by the Dalai Lama have provoked an angry reaction from Beijing [EPA]
"The Dalai Lama could come to Taiwan to help rest the souls of the dead and also pray for the well-being of the survivors," he said.

On Wednesday, leaders of seven municipalities hit by the storm issued a joint statement inviting the Dalai Lama to visit victims at the end of the month.

The invitation from the leaders - all from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party - comes as Taiwan's president faces continuing criticism that his government botched its response to the typhoon and its aftermath.

Over the past 12 years the Dalai Lama has made three visits to the island which is home to a large exiled Tibetan community and millions of Buddhists.