Levi Estores stayed on the phone much of Sunday dialling and redialling the phone numbers of his 75-year-old mother, two brothers and sister in the Philippines. There was no signal on the other end. With every digit he pressed, he felt more helpless.
“I’ve dialled almost 100 times this morning,” he said. “I don’t know what else to do.”
The pastor at the Vancouver Filipino Seventh Day Adventist Church received an e-mail from his niece that the home of one of his brothers was destroyed in the province of Capiz, but like thousands of Filipinos in Canada, Mr. Estores has heard little else of relatives and friends caught in the disaster zone. Typhoon Haiyan hit Friday but it wasn’t until Sunday that the scale of the devastation became clear: At least 10,000 people are believed dead in the city of Tacloban alone. Power and communication lines have yet to be restored.
There are more than 800,000 Filipinos in Canada, with the majority having settled in Toronto and Vancouver. The Asian country is our top source of recent immigrants: In the past five years, around 152,000 newcomers were born in the Philippines, 13 per cent of all recent immigrants, according to Statistics Canada.
There are about 7,500 Canadians in the Philippines, the federal government says.
Across the country on Sunday, Filipino community groups started collecting goods and financial donations to help victims in their homeland.
At Toronto’s Filipino Alliance Church, Pastor Rodrigo Felomino led an emotional Sunday prayer service and appealed for donations. In Winnipeg, Filipinos gathered at the Philippine-Canadian Centre of Manitoba to support each other. “Some people are crying. It’s a very emotional time, especially to hear that 10,000 people died,” said Lito Taruc, the centre’s president.
And at Mr. Estores’s church in Vancouver, he asked his parishioners not to lose hope. “As a pastor, I told them God is in control, and we should be optimistic and put everything in God’s hands,” he said. “We should prepare our resources so that when communication is restored, then that will be the time to send help.”
Canadian relief organizations have started deploying teams to the Philippines.
Hossam Elsharkawi, the director of emergencies and recovery at the Canadian Red Cross, said United Nations staff are still assessing the damage, but the reports so far indicate that “it’s absolutely devastating.”
“People are comparing [it] to the images of the 2004 Indonesia tsunami,” Mr. Elsharkawi said.
“Beyond the immediate focus we are looking at now, which is medical assistance, water, food and shelter, this is going to be a much longer term recovery effort of rebuilding homes and livelihoods,” he added.
He said Canada is a generous donor to the Philippines and added that he hopes Canada’s commitment will increase. “It’s premature, at this stage, to determine the envelope required in terms of assistance,” Mr. Elsharkawi said. “I think the next 72 hours will be very key to determining that.” He said the recovery will likely take years.
Catherin Mico, a nanny in Toronto, said her parents’ farm in one of the areas affected by the storm is destroyed and will take time and money to rebuild. Ms. Mico was relieved to hear from her sister in Manila this weekend that her parents were alive, though she hasn’t been able to connect with them as yet.
“It’s so hard. Everything is ruined,” she said.
Canadians needing urgent consular help following Typhoon Haiyan can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call collect 613-996-8885.
Canadians wishing to help individuals affected by the storm can make a financial donation online at redcross.ca/typhoon, at their local Red Cross office, or by calling 1-800-418-1111. Earmark donations “Typhoon Haiyan.”