Filipino students worry about family in Philippines after hurricane

Molina Soun, Staff Writer

Bear Creek students and families scrambled to contact relatives in the Philippines as they heard news of Typhoon Haiyan.  The deadly and destructive typhoon has affected as many as 12 million people in the Philippines, according to the United Nations, leaving families anxiously waiting to hear from relatives.

Haiyan, or Typhoon Yolanda as it is known in the Philippines, is one of the top natural disasters of all time, with winds as high as 195 miles per hour, destroying homes and leaving people without food and shelter in its wake.  The increasing death toll is estimated at 4,000 as more bodies are being discovered under collapsed buildings or in the waters.  Most of the bodies are unidentified and thousands are still missing.

“I have not heard anything about them,” senior Faye Dela Cruz said of her relatives in the IloIlo province.  “The electric lines are cut.”

“They [the Philippines] usually have big storms every year, but this was the worst,” senior Jacob Rugnao said.

Upon hearing the news, many were in a state of shock.

“I thought it was really sad,” sophomore Lyka Sarmiento said. “I didn’t know how to react. There were kids dying.”

Several organizations, such as Red Cross, are providing millions of dollars worth of aid to those who are affected.  AT&T and Verizon offered free calls and texts to the Philippines to contact family and friends and Google launched a person finder.

Social media has become a resource for people searching for relatives, with people displaying pictures and information about their missing relatives on Twitter and Facebook to gain information.

“Social media is probably the best way to contact them,” Sarmiento said.  “Telephoning them is hard right now.”

There is little sanitary water available, few shelters, various injuries, and limited food that is desperately needed, causing health concerns.  The catastrophic Category 5 super-typhoon caused power outages and roads are blocked or damaged with debris and rubbles scattered everywhere.  Without electricity, it has become more difficult for students and their families to contact family and friends in the Philippines.

“Some of them are still hard to contact, but my grandpa’s side is fine,” senior Jeri Ripoyla, whose relatives live in Agusan del Norte and Mindanao, said.

Rugnao’s parents were successfully able to contact family via cell phone.

At least four million people in the Philippines are displaced, but with roughly 1,500 shelters available, there is a shortage of space and necessities available.  Some families have been living in cars or makeshift shelters instead.

Students, such as Ripoyla and Dela Cruz and their families, have sent packages with food and clothes to help out.

“My parents are helping donate to UNICEF,” Sarmiento said.

Despite receiving aid, some people have turned to looting due to anger and frustration over shortages of essential necessities.  Warehouses and companies are being ransacked and water pipes are dug up to obtain water.  The chaos and dangers of looting has become a concern for many as they turn deadly.

“I am worried because my grandma wants to go over there to help out,” Ripoyla said.  “People are attacking cars and are desperate. My family is leaving after Thanksgiving to help out.”

Despite the tragedy caused by the typhoon, many countries have given aid to the Philippines.  Relief aid is a slow process that could last for months or years in order to rebuild homes and roads.  Reconstruction could cost billions of dollars.

“I think we [students] can send money to organizations to help out the Philippines,” Rugnao said.