A massive typhoon that hit the Philippines last Friday has left many in Chilliwack reeling.
Typhoon Haiyan, a category five storm, ripped through Leyte province with winds up to 380 kilometres per hour and a 16-foot-high wall of ocean water crashing down. As many as 10,000 people are feared dead, with many thousands more displaced from their homes.
“The houses have washed away; they’re all gone,” Monique Baker told The Progress Wednesday morning, not able to hold back her tears.
Baker, who immigrated to Canada in 2009, was born in Tacloban city, one of the areas destroyed.
As of Wednesday, eight family members had been found dead, and several were still missing.
“I’ve been calling and calling and calling,” Baker said.
She went two days without any news from home; the phone lines were down, and the emergency numbers provided didn’t work because the hospitals and police stations had been destroyed.
Baker finally reached her younger brother on Sunday and found out he had fled Tacloban with his young family the day before Haiyan. News of his survival was bittersweet.
“I cannot celebrate,” she said. “So many of my family are missing.
“I’m really terrified. I want to help them. I want to find all of them. I don’t know how to help.”
Desperate, Baker is seeking monetary donations, going door-to-door for assistance.
Steve Thornton is also looking for a loved one. His eyes have been glued to social media since the storm hit, repeatedly refreshing a Facebook survivors’ page, hoping to see word of his friend Leslie Ann Pedero.
Thornton met Pedero in 2009 while teaching English to elementary aged children through the Volunteer for the Visayans organization. They first met at a gym; her beauty and intelligence captivating him.
Palo, the city Pedero lives, was devastated by the storm.
“I still haven’t heard from her,” said Thornton, who last spoke with Pedero on Halloween. “I’m hoping and praying she’s still alive. I haven’t given up hope.”
Thornton has started an online fundraising campaign in an effort to aid the country. All funds will go directly to the local organization he volunteered with, Volunteer for the Visayans.
He hopes to raise more than $5,000.
“It’s so weird because you hear about natural disasters, you see devastation, and it doesn’t really hit home,” he said. “But when you see somewhere you’ve been, a community that was so, so good to me… for me, it feels like it was Abbotsford hit.”
To donate visit the website www.crowdrise.com/localtaclobanaid/fundraiser
While typhoons are not new for the Philippines, the country averaging approximately 19 tropical storms a year, none have compared to the brutality of Haiyan.
Airports, emergency facilities, evacuation centres all destroyed. Streets covered with debris from fallen homes and dead bodies. Food and clean water scarce.
“The people need help,” said Maria Kish, president of the Chilliwack Filipino Association. “They just need clothes, rice, sugar, and noodles – the staples.”
The association is collecting clothing and food donations until the end of the month, which will be sent through sea cargo once the lines of transportation into Leyte province are reopened.
A collection bin will be set up in the gym of Mt. Slesse middle school every Saturday until the end of the month.
How to help
Several fundraising campaigns have been organized both locally and beyond to aid in the aftermath of the Philippines typhoon disaster.
The Chilliwack Filipino Association is collecting food and clothing donations that can be dropped off on Saturdays at Mt. Slesse middle school until the end of the month.
An online fundraising campaign has been set up, raising funds for Philippine organization Volunteer for the Visayans at www.crowdrise.com/localtaclobanaid/fundraiser.
The Chilliwack Chiefs are organizing a telethon Nov. 21. Watch for more details in Tuesday’s edition of The Progress.
To directly contribute to the Canadian Red Cross for Philippines relief, visit redcross.ca or call 1-800-418-1111.
Sears Canada is accepting drop-off donations at its stores and in-store donations of $1 to $10 can be made by cash or credit card with a receipt provided.
Toronto Dominion Bank is accepting donations at its branches until Dec. 13, which will be directed to the Red Cross.
The federal government has pledged $5 million in aid in the wake of the disaster and has also said it will contribute matching amounts to its Typhoon Haiyan Relief Fund for every dollar Canadians give to registered charities up to Dec. 9.
For details see: http://www.international.gc.ca/international/index.aspx?lang=eng.
Canada has also deployed its Disaster Assistance Response Team to the Philippines.