Armin Sayson, president of the Philippine-American Society of Greater Dayton, witnessed typhoons as a child and recalled how frightening it was to see strong winds tearing off rooftops.
“I’ve not seen a disaster in the Philippines to this magnitude,” said Sayson, who resides in Fairborn.
The typhoon moved across the central Philippines on Friday, leaving a path of destruction and a growing death toll. A CBS News report estimates the number of dead could reach 10,000 people. A release from the American Red Cross indicates 1,200 evacuation centers are housing more than 330,000 people.
Frank Jenista, a professor of international studies at Cedarville University, grew up in the Pilippines and also worked for the U.S. Embassy there for 25 years. He said the devasted coastal area is dotted with small fishing villages, where homes were constructed of bamboo and palm leaves or wood.
“I think the scale of the destruction has not been adequately portrayed. Think tornado 100 miles across and you start to get some idea of the scale of the disaster,” said Jenista, adding he has friends who are unaccounted for. “We’ve got no word yet. We are trusting in God.”
Sayson, who is also a member of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, said he has seen social media postings from people searching for loved ones.
“The devastation is real and people are very concerned about the loss of family members,” Sayson said.
Concepcion Fisher of Jackson Center learned from a relative that her childhood home in Medellin in Cebu Province had been destroyed, but her seven brothers survived. She said the neighborhood is a poor one, where houses of concrete and wood were built close to each other.
She spoke with her older brother briefly. The family is now living in a lumber yard owned by a cousin.
“I am a citizen here now, but my heart is still with them,” Fisher said. “I am still worried sick. It is all very hard and terrifying to think we have food to eat on the table and there a a lot of people in desperate need of food, water and medicine.”
Rey Ybanez, 45, of Dayton said that his mother and step-father, Steve and Lorna Dudley, were vacationing in the Philippines when the typhoon hit.
Ybanez had been talking to his mother, a native of the Philippines, via Skype last Thursday night (Friday morning in Cebu) when their Internet connection was lost.
“Mom told me that it’s getting windy. The wind is picking up. About 10 or 15 minutes later, next thing I know I lost her,” Ybanez said.
He was not able to regain the connection and has been glued to his computer, searching for news ever since. Ybanez has heard from several acquaintances that his parents are okay.
“It kind of makes me relieved, but I would feel much better if I talked to them,” he said.
Barbara Lurie of Troy said her daughter LN (Ellen) was vacationing on the remote resort island of Boracay in the Philippines, when Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. Protected from the storm by mountains on the western side of the island, Lurie, 31, initially told her mom, “It wasn’t that bad.”
At her father’s urging, Lurie traveled to Cebu Province in the far north were disaster workers say towns suffered severe damage. She will spend a month lending a hand in relief efforts, her mother said.
“We haven’t been able to talk to her. We’ve only been able to text,” Barbara Lurie said. “She’s going to have the same problems, the same issues as everyone. There is no food, no water. Just because she is a tourist doesn’t mean she’ll get special treatment.”
Lurie said her daughter, who has been touring the world for several months, had recently spent time in Central and South America as well as Vietnam. She does own a small water purification system.
For more information about relief efforts, contact the Philippine-American Society of Greater Dayton on Facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate to the Red Cross, go to redcross.org or call 1-800-REDCROSS. Matthew 25’s website is m25m.org.