Typhoon Haiyan

Filipinos in Hong Kong collect money and food to help Haiyan's victims

World sends emergency aid to battered Philippines

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 November, 2013, 6:21am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 November, 2013, 3:24pm

Filipinos in Hong Kong are racing against time to raise money and collect daily necessities for families and friends affected by Severe Typhoon Haiyan.

Many face an agonising wait for news of loved ones in stricken areas where food is running out and power supplies are down. Rescue teams are being hampered by collapsed bridges and roads blocked by fallen trees.

Domestic helper Maricar Co Nunez phoned her family in Ormoc - a two-hour bus ride from the worst-hit city of Tacloban - 50 times but got through only once.

"The roof of my family's house was blown away. They have no food and all the shops are closed. It's like a ghost town there now. There is no electricity and it gets very dark at just 5pm," Nunez said. "My family is waiting for the relief operations but the problem is that all the roads have been blocked."

Filipino organisations in Hong Kong, including the Philippine Independent Church, started fundraising campaigns yesterday.

"We feel very sorry about what is happening in the Philippines. And we are worried because food is running out," said Evelyn Aguirre, the church's mission council vice-chairwoman.

Helen Bulusan, chairwoman of the Filipino Migrants Association, said Filipino organisations would ask employers of domestic helpers to donate money, canned food and clothes. These would be sent to rescue organisations in the Philippines.

Jonah Simundo's family in the city of Iloilo is safe but their house has collapsed. The domestic helper's relatives are living on the rice they stocked up on before the typhoon hit.

"The bridge has collapsed and there is no electricity. The wind was so strong it was like a washing machine," she said.

Countries and organisations around the world, including the US, the UN and the EU, on Sunday scrambled aid to the Philippines as the devastation wreaked by Super Typhoon Haiyan became clearer.

US military help was on its way, after the Pentagon said Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel was responding to a request from Manila for assistance. It included search-and-rescue ships and transport aircraft deployed from the United States’ Pacific deployments.

Australia boosted its funding for relief efforts in the Philippines to A$10 million (HK$72.3 million) on Monday with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop describing the unfolding tragedy as “absolutely  devastating”.

“Reports continue to come in that this is a disaster on a massive scale,”  Bishop told reporters.

Australia donated an immediate US$490,000 (HK$3.8 million) on Sunday to help the Philippines recover from the super typhoon Haiyan which is feared to have claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Bishop said she had now approved a A$10 million humanitarian aid package which would include A$4 million towards the United Nation’s appeal and A$3 million for Australian non-government organisations.

It is one of the largest donations by any country so far and Bishop said Australia was ready to offer more assistance if needed.

New Zealand also increased its humanitarian relief, bringing its total to NZ$2.15 million (HK$13.7 million), Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon promised UN humanitarian agencies would “respond rapidly to help people in need”.

The UN children’s fund UNICEF said a cargo plane carrying 60 tonnes of aid including shelters and medicine would arrive in the Philippines on Tuesday, to be followed by deliveries of water purification and sanitation equipment.

The European Commission said it would give US$4 million to help in relief efforts.

Britain offered another emergency support package worth US$9.6 million. Germany’s embassy in Manila said an initial shipment of 23 tonnes of aid was being flown in and German rescue teams were already at work.

Pope Francis, “deeply saddened” by the disaster, on Sunday urged Catholics to provide “concrete help” and led 60,000 people in prayers for the Philippines.

“Sadly, there are many, many victims and the damage is huge,” he said. On Saturday, he had tweeted his sympathy to the Asian nation.

Other aid mobilised included:

- Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) said it was sending 200 tonnes of aid - medicine, tents, hygiene kits - to arrive mid-week, with a first cargo plane leaving from Dubai on Monday and another from Belgium on Tuesday.

- Up to US$5 million promised by Canada to humanitarian organisations trying to help survivors in the Philippines.

- Oxfam, the British-based relief group, said it has sent an assessment team ahead of aid operations.

Executive Council member Bernard Chan suggested the government postpone for several months its one-month ultimatum to the Philippines for compensation and an apology over the 2010 bus hostage drama, to give Manila time to focus on rescue operations.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying issued a statement of sympathy for the victims. But his office did not answer when asked about Chan's suggestion.

Agence France-Presse