Nerve-wracking search for Philippines typhoon missing kin

By Jennifer Hunt

On Thursday, Nov. 7, Super Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda, touched down in the Philippines. It was only there for a matter of hours, but it left behind a path of destruction and despair. The U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimated peak winds to be 195 mph, with gusts of 220 mph. Officials believe Haiyan may have been one of the most intense tropical storms in modern history.

Tacloban, the capital city of the province of Leyte, was hit the hardest. Two of my siblings only lived a couple hours south of Tacloban, in another coastal city named Abuyog. The last I heard from them, they had evacuated from their homes to wait out the storm. That was Thursday night, before the storm knocked out all means of communication from the island. Thus began the most terrifying and anxiety-ridden weekend my family has ever endured.

As the death toll estimate increased, so did our fears. My mom went into a panic after seeing the death estimate reach 10,000. Watching the destruction of Tacloban on the news devastated me, but I couldn't avert my eyes. To see looks of horror and unimaginable grief on faces that resembled my own relatives broke my heart.

Maybe if I was lucky, I could catch a quick glimpse of one of my missing family members.

Maybe if I was unlucky, I would see their bodies among the others strewn throughout the debris. I just wanted to know. Nothing was worse than the unknown at this point. Each day, I checked every news outlet imaginable to find anything about the status of Abuyog. I even went to my mom's house and sat through hours of The Filipino Channel's news broadcasts even though I don't understand Tagolog. I also employed various methods to search for my siblings and their families. I checked the Red Cross's list of survivors, and I submitted their information to the Google Typhoon Yolanda missing person finder.

It was strange, and so upsetting, to attach each picture on their individual profiles. Especially upsetting was the missing person profile I had to create for my infant twin nephews, James and Jason, both only three months old.

Four nerve-wracking days after the storm hit, my mom received a call from my oldest brother Efren late Sunday night. Everyone was alive and well. The house my mom built for Efren was still in tact, but severely damaged. However, my older sister Brendalyn and her family lost everything. Their house was wiped out by the storm, but they still considered themselves lucky. At least they escaped with their lives.

Haiyan's aftermath thrust the Philippines into the international spotlight. Images of its citizens suffering saturate every news outlet as the numbers of the unfortunate continue to rise. As of now 620,000 people have been displaced, according to CNN. Survivors are running dangerously low on food and water, and the water they do have is contaminated.

To make matters worse, there's new tropical depression that made landfall in Mindinao three days after Haiyan's devastation.

Although many organizations have reached out to aid the disaster-stricken country, relief is still slow going. The Waray Waray Association, a Hampton Roads group of Filipinos who originated from Leyte, has scheduled a fund raiser to help expedite relief for Haiyan victims Nov. 29 at the Philippine Cultural Center in Virginia Beach. Tickets are $20, and the event begins at 6:30 p.m.

The writer is a junior at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

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