The typhoon that devastated a swath of the Philippines Friday has brought tears and sleepless nights to many Lowcountry families, as local relief groups gear up efforts to help.
Those looking for help finding a missing relative in the Philippines can ask about the Red Cross’ family tracing service at 764-2323.
People seeking information about a loved one who is a U.S. national should call the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Overseas Citizens at 1-888-407-4747.
Donations to Red Cross relief efforts can be made at redcross.org.
Water Missions International
Donations can be made at watermissions.org.
“I haven’t slept in two days,” said Lynn Benitez of Goose Creek, who grew up in Tacloban, where Typhoon Haiyan scored a direct hit.
The storm flattened buildings with its 195 mph winds, washed houses into the ocean, and knocked out communications systems. Relief agencies were reporting that 10,000 people had been killed. There was no way for the dozens of local families with relatives in the Philippines to know who was still alive.
News finally came Monday for Benitez, and it was not good. Six of her cousins — a family with four children — were killed.
“They were all close to me,” said Benitez, who helps run her husband’s roofing company. “We grew up together.”
More bad news. Rescue workers have found the body of her uncle’s pregnant wife. Their three children were still missing Monday.
Her childhood home is gone, washed out to sea.
She saw the news reports of water and food shortages, and looters breaking into houses. She sent her aunt, who lives in Manila, $400 to buy food for the survivors.
George Green IV, president and CEO of Water Missions International said it sent an engineer from Charleston on Monday to help install 12 water-treatment systems.
“We don’t know the total scale of need right now,” he said. “We’re prepared to send 40 water systems.”
The storm affected almost 10 million people, authorities estimated, but nobody knew the full extent of the damage Monday.
Rebecca Abilar of Hanahan was especially worried about her brother, who lives in Tacloban.
“I have no idea what’s going on,” she said.
Other relatives live near the city, and they have no way of communicating.
“My stomach has been churning, and I can’t concentrate,” said Abilar, who works for Amazon. “I’ve just been watching the news, hoping I would see one of them on TV, or at least whether they’re still alive.”
Andrea Ashton of Goose Creek, a pharmacy technician, was hoping for word about her five sisters, who live not far north of Tacloban.
“It’s stressful, very stressful,” she said. “I just don’t like to watch TV that much. I don’t want to see the bad news.”
She heard a rumor that her sisters are alive, but it had not been confirmed. She was hoping the Red Cross might find out.
The Red Cross has offered to help find missing relatives. Several local families have asked for help, spokeswoman Lisa Quick said.
Father Jason Caganap oversees a sizable Filipino congregation at Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek. He said several parishioners had asked him to pray for relatives who were still missing.
“Everybody is waiting right now and is hoping for the best,” he said Monday afternoon.
He said he is planning a memorial mass for victims. He was also organizing a meeting with several local Filipino groups to see what might be done to help. That includes the Filipino Community Center.
“It is heartbreaking,” the center’s president, Lily Cabading, said. “We’ve been praying.”
Lauren Sausser contributed to this story. Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.